Wout van Aert wins his first ever gravel race by nine minutes

It doesn't matter what the bike is, the Belgian can do absolutely anything he wants

Wout van Aert
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wout van Aert took to the startline of his first ever gravel race on Saturday in Belgium - and in typical Wout van Aert fashion cruised to victory by a huge margin.

Jumbo-Visma's Mr Versatile competed in the Houffa Gravel race in Houffalize in the Ardennes in an attempt to qualify for October's Gravel World Championships.

Pre-race, Van Aert had cautioned against expecting him to dominate. "It's the first time that I ride such a race. I am curious how it will go. I have no idea how intensive it is."

But to very few people's surprise, the cyclocross, time trial, mountain and sprinting supremo rode away from the peloton early on and eventually crossed the line more than nine minutes ahead of second place Daan Soete.

The 110km race, which took in dirt roads and forest trails, was completed by Van Aert in 3:20. "I really enjoyed this race and I'm happy to have been able to take the victory. It gives me confidence for [the World] championships," the 28-year-old said.

Van Aert shared his gravel race ride on Strava, writing that "when I grow up I want to be a gravel racer."

The inaugural men's UCI Gravel World Championships in 2022 was won by Gianni Vermeersch of Alpecin-Deceuninck. 

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Van Aert will return to road racing at the Tour of Britain on September 3, where there will be plenty of opportunities for him to win, with seven of the eight stages expected to end in a sprint, and final day uphill finish also lending itself to his capabilities.

After that, he will turn his attention back to gravel and look to secure his fourth senior world title on October 8 in Italy; he has previously won the cyclocross world championships three times but has twice finished second in the road race and time trial world championships.

"I expect a different field of participants at the Worlds, so we'll what's possible," he said. "Today I certainly enjoyed myself and sometimes that is also important."

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Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.

Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.