Tomorrow's Antwerp World Cup will be an important day of the season, as Wout van Aert returns to the discipline and for the first time this winter he, Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock will all be present at a race.
"Tomorrow I'll be at the start without any pressure. It doesn't matter if I win or not. The rest of the year I'm at the start of races with a lot of pressure on my shoulders coming from the team, myself, the world. That's hard mentally," van Aert told Het Laatste Nieuws on the eve of his return. He had initially planned to make Overijse his starting race, but illness forced him to have a later start, in the same weekend as last season.
"I now get a lot more pleasure from the cross than before" - Wout van Aert on changes of approach on the eve of cyclocross debut
Although he has not taken part in today's Superprestige Boom, he will be at the starting line in Antwerp tomorrow where he will be a big favourite, taking into consideration how he's started last season in flying form and seemed a level above the competition throughout most of his races.
"I'm a rider who can get results in different kind of races. That way there's always pressure on me during road season. That's what makes the cross so nice. It's fun to race against the guys I've always raced against when I was younger," he continued.
"They are competitors like any other" - Laurens Sweeck ready for arrival of van Aert, van der Poel and Pidcock in cyclocross
The Belgian has done his best to remove pressure off his shoulders, something which throughout the entire year is complicated due to the sheer talent and versatility he carries. As he eyes only the World Championships this winter, he has made it clear that he is starting the first races without ambitions to win, but with the intention to improve form towards February.
"When Remco, Mathieu, Tadej and I start in a race, everyone expects something. When riders are doing their build-up at Paris-Nice, no one is surprised if they don't get a good result. That's not the case for me. Everyone expects results," he concluded.