Wout van Aert could still ride Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, but it would be “impossible” for him to ride for the win, Jumbo-Visma DS Merijn Zeeman has told Het Laatste Nieuws.
“We want to make the decision on Thursday, but if Wout rides Roubaix, it will be to help a teammate. Winning himself seems impossible,” Zeeman explained.
The Belgian champion has been training in Spain after being given the all-clear from team doctors to resume training. The team chose to send Van Aert to Spain to benefit from the warm weather and avoid the risk of further illness from training in bad weather.
“Everyone has seen what the weather was like in Belgium last week. In order to be able to pick up training in a good way after his Covid infection, Wout left for the sun. Where that is, is irrelevant. It is true that he can train in sunny conditions,” said Zeeman. “After many examinations, he received the green light from the doctors to calmly resume training. We have decided not to do it in the rain and cold of Belgium, but in sunny conditions.”
Zeeman said that the 27-year-old had undergone the requisite seven-day isolation period and was free of symptoms when he left for Spain with a team doctor who was deployed to “monitor Wout’s status with his own eyes.”
Now, van Aert is apparently “completely healthy,” according to Zeeman. “But that does not mean that you can deliver a performance as a top athlete. Within the team, we already have riders who have needed a lot of time to be able to race again after their Covid infection. Others had little or no trouble after their infection and were able to resume competition very quickly.”
“How we can find out with Wout is by examining him extensively and evaluating how his body responds to the training sessions. That is why he also wanted to train in good conditions. It is better to estimate an evolution on the basis of two hours of training in good conditions than by cycling for two hours in heavy rain and with wind force six.”
If Van Aert lines up at Roubaix, the race could be one of his last before he starts building up to the Tour de France.”Based on the training sessions he is now completing, we will determine whether he will immediately start his preparation for the Tour or whether he will first race before starting that Tour preparation. We look at that day-to-day,” said Zeeman.
The Jumbo-Visma DS also acknowledged that Flandrian fans who, having been deprived of their champion at Flanders, are itching to see him in action at another Monument. “We also wish Flanders that, but we feel responsible for Wout’s health and also in the long term. It is now Monday, Paris-Roubaix is getting very close. If the signals from his body are insufficient, he will not ride in Roubaix. Most importantly, he now feels completely healthy and all medical results are good too. That is hopeful,” he said.
The decision will be made by Friday at the latest. However, the team recon will take place on Thursday and, Zeeman says, they are aware of the impact on other riders: “Suppose that Wout is riding, another rider has to drop out, so we actually want to make the decision on Thursday.”
“We wanted Wout to be top in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. That was unsuccessful and a disappointment. Wout will only appear at the start of Roubaix if he can play a role and that will be to mean something to a teammate. He must be able to do something there, for example in the service of Laporte, Teunissen, or Van Hooydonck.”
“Fortunately, anything is possible in cycling. But to win Paris-Roubaix you have to be in top shape and unfortunately that is no longer possible after a week of isolation. You don’t have to be an expert to estimate that.”