Wout van Aert says he's racing Paris-Roubaix so he is not 'missing out on everything'

Jumbo-Visma rider explains that he will be a "little less good" on Sunday

Wout van Aert
(Image credit: Jumbo Visma/Bram Berkien)

The fear of missing out is a natural feeling; we have all been in a situation where we have felt like we have lost out by not going to a party, or having nothing to do on a Friday night, through skipping that holiday that then looked amazing in the photos.

When one is an elite bike rider, FOMO is a bit different. There are only so many opportunities in a rider's career to race the Monuments, and so every single one missed is a bitter, bitter blow.

This is where Wout van Aert is at the moment. The Jumbo-Visma rider contracted covid in the week before the Tour of Flanders, his biggest bike race of the year, and was forced to sit at home and watch on television as his great rival Mathieu van der Poel conquered all.

That FOMO, then, goes a long way to explain why Van Aert is returning to action this weekend at Paris-Roubaix, despite the fact he might not yet be at full strength.

In an interview released by his team on Friday, the Belgian champion explained he was riding Roubaix in order to not have "the feeling of missing out on everything".

He explained: "The choice to ride anyway, even if it is not in the best possible condition, is mainly to not have the feeling of missing out on everything. I'm here with that approach and that gives a lot of doubts. Of course I hope for 'those' legs, but that is not realistic."

His season up to Covid was remarkable. In 12 race days, he finished in the top three eight times, including three wins. Van Aert was the form rider of the Classics season, which made his absence from Flanders all the more difficult to stomach.

"It was a bit unreal," he said. "Until the day of the race it felt bizarre, and when I was watching the race, I had a hard time. It was the same with the Amstel Gold Race. I thought: Even if I am not in top form, I would still like to make something of it. I've already had a great season, with a few beautiful victories. 

"That eases the pain. I did make certain choices and built my schedule to be at my best at the monuments. That did not work out and that's a bummer."

While he did have Covid, he only had minor symptoms, fortunately for the Belgian.

"Fortunately, not severely sick," Van Aert said. "I never had a fever. It was more like cold symptoms: sore throat, stuffy nose, a heavy head, etc. I did suffer from fatigue for a long time. Only the last few days have I been doing a little better."

As for his role in Sunday's race, the Belgian said that he would be in a "supporting role", although he failed to hide his ambition to use that to his advantage. However, he said he is "certainly not at the level I was at before the Tour of Flanders."

"I have been able to train a little more intensively the last few days. I responded well to that," he said. "But everything that you wiped out during the inactivity and those first quiet days of cycling, you can't just recover. I will be a little less good, but it's hard to say how much less.

"I think my role will be different than usual. I usually am the leader. This year, we are racing in a way that we are trying to get into the final with many. But I'm usually the one who can keep quiet the longest. 

"I hope it will be different this time, and I mainly mean that I hope to get somewhere in the final and support Christophe [Laporte], Nathan [van Hooydonck] or Mike [Teunissen[. Obviously, I hope I don't have to ride in the lead initially because I feel bad. If I'm just okay, I hope to get into the final and be able to support those guys."

"It's a course you can't predict," he continued. "In a supporting role, many guys have already gone far here. I secretly hope for that, but I start with that approach in any case."

Van Aert might have be scared of missing out one more big day in his career, but cycling has also been slightly less valuable without one of its best riders, so fans should be delighted to see the Belgian back.

"I am delighted that I can be there again," he concluded "Even if it is with lesser legs. It would hurt more if I had to let go of this race as well."

Roubaix awaits.

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