Wout van Aert has announced he will be racing the cyclocross World Championships next month.
The Jumbo-Visma rider has come through an arduous recovery process after suffering a nasty injury during the Tour de France last year, but he looks to be making a full recovery.
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Van Aert, 25, was out of competition from July until his cyclocross return in Loenhout on December 27 and he has already shown huge promise, taking fifth in his first race back.
With his confidence boosted by his off-road performances, he will now race the Worlds in Dübendorf, Switzerland on February 2 and has added a handful of new CX races to his schedule to help him prepare for the road season.
Van Aert said: “I think World Championships selection will be fine. In principal I’ll go to Switzerland and that is certainly something I wasn’t planning on a while ago.
“This is a nice boost and hopefully I can continue to improve.”
The Belgian’s 2019 season was derailed when he crashed during the stage 13 time trial of the Tour de France in Pau, which left him with a deep wound in his upper leg.
Van Aert has also announced four other events he plans to race as he continues his return to fitness – January 25 in Zonnebeke, the World Cup in Hoogerheide the following day, the February 8 DVV Trofee in Lille near his hometown of Herentals and the Superprestige in Merksplas on February 9.
He had initially planned to race cross to help boost his training as he looks to the spring Classics, but after finishing in the top-five of all three of his CX races so far this season he has upped his ambitions.
Van Aert said: “My coach and trainer both think that this can make me better.
“I am starting to get the feeling that things are starting to get better. I am happy that I’ll be at the start in the coming weeks.
“I like to ride these cross races, but does it also fit in with my preparation for the Flemish Classics?
“We’ve noticed that I’m missing that hardness that I’ll also need in the Classics, so in that sense cross is good training.”
Van Aert is expected to race a packed Classics calendar, including Milan-San Remo, the E3 BinckBank Classic, Ghent Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen, The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
He will then switch his focus to the Tour de France, having won stage 10 on his debut last year.