"He can of course easily win the cross in Essen" - Wout van Aert the big favourite to win debut cross, Daan Soete says

Wout van Aert starts his cyclocross season this Saturday and Essen and will be the headliner of an event that features a very modest startlist both for men and women. Friend and competitor Daan Soete believes he can easily win, and tells his thoughts on the Jumbo-Visma rider.

"Last week I trained with Wout a few times. He says himself that he is slightly less than last year, mainly because he has trained slightly less cross-specifically," Daan Soete told In de Leiderstrui. The fellow cyclocross rider is a friend and frequent training partner throughout the winter, and has recently spent time with van Aert, who will only race a short calendar off-road, not focusing on the World Championships but instead putting his head in the road season fully.

"That is understandable, because he only wants to peak a little later in the season. Especially towards spring." That starts this weekend. Many of the main riders in the field are taking the weekend off racing for rest or training for the rest of the season. Very few make the trip over to Italy for the Val di Sole World Cup, and few take part in the race in Essen which does not count for the Superprestige or X2O Badkamers.

"In any case, I think that the first cross of the year is difficult for everyone. But for the same money, Wout rides even faster than last year. For example, because he will start a little fresher. But at least he thinks it will be a bit less. With that basic level, he can of course easily win the cross in Essen. That shouldn't be a problem. Even if a number of boys can follow him for half a cross, which I think is already a long time, that should work. At the end he usually has more surplus than the average rider."

The Deschacht - Hens - Maes rider concluded with an interesting detail of the post-race routine for the riders: "Everyone finishes their own race. Maybe we'll hang out together for a while and talk briefly, but I don't really think so. Wout sometimes dares to take me along in his wake, although that is often a bit too fast for me. Then I have to let go a little later."

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