Cyclocross world champion Wout van Aert says that he will be targetting a top 10 at the Tour of Flanders when he makes his debut at the race next month.
23-year-old Van Aert has made a strong start to the road season after a winter of cyclocross racing, including a third-place finish in Strade Bianche behind Tiesj Benoot and Romain Bardet.
However his big targets for the spring will be the cobbled Classics in Belgium and northern France, where he will ride the GP de Denain (March 18) and Dwars door Vlaanderen (March 28) in preparation for the Tour of Flanders (April 1) and Paris-Roubaix (April 8).
“I would take a top 10,” Van Aert told Sporza after completing a recon of the route with his Veranda’s-Willems team.
“Ordinarily I would not expect that sort of good result in my first Tour of Flanders, but I have performed well in recent weeks, so maybe it should be my ambition to finish in the top 10.”
Coming from a season of hour-long cyclocross races, Van Aert acknowledges that the 262km distance of the Tour of Flanders may be a challenge, but has been training to prepare for the six hour race.
On Wednesday Van Aert and his team completed a recon of the final 125km of the Flanders route, including the climbs of the Muur van Geraardsbergen, Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, and Koppenberg. However Van Aert didn’t stop there, finishing the day with 75km of motor-pacing at an average speed of around 45kmh.
“I need these long training sessions to be able to handle the distances in the big races better,” Van Aert explained
“Wait and see how much power I have left in the final circuit [of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg].”
“In Omloop Het Nieuwsblad I survived the selection on the Muur Van Geraardsbergen. But I think that the Tour of Flanders is more of a war of attrition with the race decided beyond the 200km marker. It remains to be seen how much power I have left at that point.”