It has been a year of close calls for Wout van Aert in 2023. Second at the Cyclocross World Championships, second at the Glasgow World Championships road race and now second once again at the European Championships.
“It was a painful sprint, as I think you could see on TV,” said the Belgian in his post-race interview with NOS having been narrowly beaten by his Jumbo-Visma teammate, Christophe Laporte after a thrilling fightback from van Aert in the final kilometre. "Christophe was just too far ahead and just too strong. I thought for a moment that I would get it."
Christophe Laporte crowned European Champion after thrilling finale; Van Aert and Kooij complete podium in Jumbo-Visma 1-2-3
Key to even getting as close he did to Laporte was a monumental effort by Arnaud De Lie to try and bridge the gap. "Arnaud's turn was crucial," says van Aert, full of praise for his young compatriot. "I don't know where Christophe gets it from, because he was still riding really well. I just couldn't get over him.”
“It is of course always difficult in such a leading group. When one is gone, you want to get to him. But you also don't want to waste too much strength," analyses van Aert with a tinge of regret. "In retrospect, we may have waited too long for the countries that had a couple to make a choice. Maybe we should have talked more quickly with the Dutch and the Danes.”