In a short Instagram message, Wout van Aert, confirmed that he will not race Tour of Flanders on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19.
"It's been two hectic days," the Belgian stated. "Yesterday morning I woke up with a sore throat and two quick tests indicated that I was positive for COVID-19. Two PCR tests confirmed it, so there is no chance that I will be at the start on Sunday."
Rumours about Van Aert's health had been circulating for days, and his Jumbo-Visma team stated that his participation would be "unlikely" after not joining his team for the race recon on Thursday.
This news comes as a big blow for his team and race fans alike. The Belgian champion was the outstanding favourite for Sunday's Monument after winning two cobbled Classics already this season, and many were hoping to see him go head-to-head with his longtime rival, Mathieu van der Poel.
With his absence now confirmed, Jumbo-Visma are likely to contest "De Ronde" with Benoot and Christophe Laporte as their leaders.
Van Aert is however hopeful that he'll be back in action before long.
"Good news is that I only have mild symptoms: a bit of a sore throat and a mild cold. It strengthens my hope that I will make a quick recovery and be back in action in the coming weeks," he said.
The big question that remains is where Van Aert may have picked up the infection and who else might have been exposed.
"It's a mystery where I picked up the infection. I have put in a lot of effort to avoid it these past two years, and especially in the past months and weeks. Of course, we're at risk of exposure during racing, before and after. Like last weekend. Evidently, I can't control it. And I caught me at the worst possible moment," he stated
For now, the start racer said he'll be his team's biggest fan on Sunday while he focuses on making a completely recovery.
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