"The Tour? That is only an option in the very best case" Wout van Aert says ahead of the Tour of Norway

Wout van Aert returns to competition this Thursday after two months away from the peloton. After breaking a collarbone and ribs, alongside his sternum, it took a long time until he was able to properly train again as his his injuries proved to cause too much stress on his body.

“It has dragged on longer than I thought or hoped. I underestimated it. In my head, only that broken collarbone remained as a verdict. The rehabilitation went up and down, because I had occasional relapses," van Aert said in an interview with Sporza. "It was difficult to accept. I was tired of having to watch the race on TV.”

Van Aert's crash meant he had to abandon his main goals of the spring: Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix... But also to put aside another big goal which would be his Giro d'Italia debut. A key season in the Belgian's career, destroyed in a high-speed crash that took place in Flanders. “I suspect that I wasn't enjoying myself anyway, although from my perspective it didn't seem that bad. Until Paris-Roubaix. That was a very difficult day."

But it was clear then that his initial plans had all gone down the drain. The priority now was to recover, and he had some months to more calmly do so and then prepare for the Olympic Games. "Then I realized that I was still very far away from racing. Things only turned around two weeks ago, when I went to Spain for a training camp. Before that I was able to cycle every day, but from Spain I was also able to train.”

Now with some form, van Aert hopes to find some racing rhythm at the Tour of Norway, where the startlist is very modest but it is not too likely that he will be taking a stage win. “Ideally, I would like to win four stages here and then take everything from there. But unfortunately it's not realistic. Hopefully I can return home with confidence and then compete for a win again in the summer in the biggest races – where I think I belong.”

The Olympics remain his big goal for the rest of the season and the Tour de France, which had been initially scraped off his schedule, is currently very likely. “The Tour? That is only an option in the very best case," he replies. "The Olympics are more realistic. The time trial is in 2 months. I had the least doubts about that. But I will only go to Paris if I can perform at the top level.”

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