Wout van Aert (opens in new tab) arrived at Tirreno-Adriatico (opens in new tab) in the hope of testing his legs in the general classification for the first time, after showing he is a very capable climber with excellent displays at the Tour de France (opens in new tab) and Critérium du Dauphiné.
Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has already shown he has amazing form, winning stage one of Tirreno-Adriatico (opens in new tab) in a bunch sprint with immense power to beat the likes of Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) to the line.
But Van Aert also hopes to test his abilities in the general classification at the week-long Italian stage race, but his team also admit he is at a disadvantage when compared with proven climbers like Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers).
Jumbo-Visma's sports director, Merijn Zeeman, told Sporza (opens in new tab): "It was our long-term plan that Wout wants to see how far he can get. It also has to do with sharpening his shape and going to the limit every day.
"In this way he can take a step on a physical level and on the other hand he can learn as a classification rider. We want to expand that and Wout wants that too."
The Belgian dominated across all disciplines in the rejigged 2020 season where he won bunch sprints, time trials, cobbled Classics, hilly stages and also performed in the mountains of the Tour de France in his role as a domestique. Whether that form can be continued after a full cyclocross programme is something he's looking to find out.
Zeeman continued: "I think he is ready, yes. Wout is of course not [Tadej] Pogačar or [Egan] Bernal. They will always have the advantage, but Wout feels good. He wants to explore his limits and see where his limits are. That always benefits you. We are curious.
"You don't become a classification rider overnight. We want to develop that. He is now trying it for the first time at WorldTour level and he must be given time to develop. The result is not important to us, but the experience is."
Van Aert missed out on defending his title at Strade Bianche as he didn't look to quite have the legs he had in 2020 to beat the likes of eventual winner Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), but he showed he definitely has the speed in the spring at Tirreno.
Team boss, Richard Plugge said in a piece by Het Laatste Nieuws (opens in new tab): "If it turns out that he can also win stage races then we’ll also strive for that. The big plan is that he remains the best rider in the world. That's what he wants and that's what we want,"
Van Aert himself was still unsure of how he will perform on the Prati di Tivo stage, the main mountain test with multiple large climbs with a summit finish.
"There is a mountain finish and that will tell me exactly what I want to know: how far can I go and how much [time] will I lose. I am realistic: hurting Pogačar on the climbs probably isn’t going to happen, but I want to know how well I can do, without too much expectation," said the Tour de France stage winner.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!
I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.
It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.
After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.
When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.
My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.
Hayter and Gloag form two-pronged attack for Great Britain at Tour de l'Avenir
The U23 Giro d’Italia 2022 winner explains Great Britain have plenty of cards to play as they look to land overall victory
By Tom Thewlis • Published
Inaugural US National Cycling League could see fans virtually racing the pros in 2023
The brand new professional cycling league has received investment from NFL stars as it races in real-time and in the metaverse
By Ryan Dabbs • Published
Celebrating the career of Tom Dumoulin: our three favourite moments
The former Giro d’Italia winner announced his immediate retirement earlier this week
By Tom Thewlis • Published
Tom Dumoulin ends career with immediate effect
Dutch former Giro d’Italia winner brings forward retirement from professional cycling
By Tom Thewlis • Published
Primož Roglič set to ride Vuelta a España, targeting fourth successive win
Jumbo-Visma confirm Slovenian will line up alongside Rohan Dennis and Sepp Kuss on Friday
By Adam Becket • Published
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig survives repeated attacks to win the Tour of Scandinavia
Marianne Vos takes a fourth stage win win after an entertaining and combative final day in Norway
By Owen Rogers • Published