Wout van Aert will not defend his Belgian national champion’s jersey on Sunday after sustaining a knee injury in training.
The 27-year-old hit his knee against his handlebars during a training ride in Tignes, where Jumbo-Visma are currently hosting a pre-Tour de France training camp. Van Aert has decided that aggravating the injury in a national championships isn’t worth potentially jeoparding his Tour participation.
“I think it’s a real shame that I can’t defend my jersey. I would normally never forgo a Belgian championship,” Van Aert said, the heroics of last year’s Tour will sadly not be repeated in a red, yellow and black jersey.
It is mandatory for all Belgian riders with pro status (which encompasses WorldTour, ProTeam as well as some continental-level riders) to participate in the national road race championships, except if you have a medical reason not to take part.
The time trial is not mandatory and Van Aert was already not signed up for that competition. The race against the clock, which the Belgian won in both 2019 and 2020, didn’t fit into his pre-Tour schedule ahead of a green jersey tilt and a supporting role for Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard’s bid for the overall.
In the time trial competition, Remco Evenepoel reversed the result of 2021, beating Quick-Step AlphaVinyl teammate Yves Lampaert to claim his first-ever elite national title, with Lotto-Soudal’s Victor Campenaerts in third place.
“I also regret missing the time trial because it just didn’t fit the schedule. However, this is the wisest decision because I don’t want to jeopardise the Tour.”
Most of the national time trial championships have been taking place this week while the road races will be contested this coming weekend. The biggest story coming out of the timed tests was in the Netherlands, where Bauke Mollema beat Tom Dumoulin by more than half a minute, as the latter’s professional race days tick down before retirement.
Following his second place, Dumoulin hit out at critics in the press who have been saying he will be ‘gifted’ his spot in the Netherlands’ time trial squad for the Wollongong World Championship later this year.
“I have read that I will receive my selection for the World Championships as a gift. I don’t know if you have seen my results from the past World Championships and the major international time trials? I think there is only one person in the Netherlands who is entitled to that World Championships spot and that is me,” Dumoulin told AD.
“Why do people doubt that? I win one medal after another at the World Championships and then there are people who dare to start a discussion about it,” the 2017 world time trial champion continued. “At the Olympic Games [where he came second in the time trial] I already proved that it is a non-discussion. It’s just sad. That’s a sore spot, yes. I am very happy with the confidence that Koos [Moerenhout, the national coach] gives me, but I also have to work for it. All the people who think I get that place as a gift can sink into the shit.”