Wout van Aert is a Belgian cyclist who specializes in Cyclocross and Road Racing. A rider for Jumbo-Visma, he has become popular over his extensive success in cyclocross including several world titles and world cup wins, but also on the road where he is a multiple Tour de France stage winner and green jersey victor, as well as being a spring classics expert, with races such as Milano-Sanremo, Strade Bianche and Amstel Gold Race in his palmarès.
Name: Wout van Aert
Birthday: 15 September 1994
Birthplace: Herentals, Belgium
Turned Pro: 2013
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Wout van Aert was born on the 15th of September 1994 in the northern Belgian town of Herentals. Like many, he had in his family - although not directly - someone involved in pro cycling (Jos van Aert), but has followed his own path into Cyclocross. This is the discipline in which he began competing and became the most successful, later on combining both off-road and road cycling to become one of the most successful riders in the current peloton.
Despite his incredibly talented stance on different disciplines and his almost unmatched versatility in road cycling, van Aert's salary is said to be around €2.2 million euros - compared to Tadej Pogacar's €6 million it is a modest sum. As one of the biggest powerhouses and time-trial experts in the peloton, his FTP is rumoured to be approximately 460 watts, well above the values of even other pro riders - with his stature also seeing him become a top cyclocross rider and sprinter. Van Aert is a Red Bull-sponsored athlete and frequently races with the company's colours on his helmet. He is also married to long-term partner Sarah de Bie, and has had his first son Georges in 2021.
He first entered the competitive ranks in the 2010-2011 season where he was just another rider in the middle of the bunch without many meaningful results. In his final year as a junior however, 2011-2012, his level had increased and he rode a full season at international level that included a few wins and a lot of consistent results - alongside a second place at the Superprestige behind Mathieu van der Poel, a rider with whom he would cross paths with for the entirety of his career in different disciplines.
He would go on to race three seasons at under-23 level, first with the Telent-Fidea team, later with Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace. His rivalry with van der Poel began hitting the big screens here. This season van Aert won the superprestige cup and a few races but was distant in the main objectives of the season. In 2013-2014 he was a more consistent figure, winning the Bpost Bank Trofee and finishing second in both Superprestige and the World Cup, and becoming under-23 World Champion in Hoogerheide in front of van der Poel and Michael Vanthourenhout.
In the 2014-2015 season he won the under-23 European Championships, and turned Elite at the end of the year, where van der Poel took the Elite World title and the Belgian came home second. Here began a long clash the two would have at Elite level. In 2015-2016 van Aert won the World Championships, the Nationals, the World Cup, Superprestige and Bpost Bank Trofee, rising to the very top of the sport. In 2016-2017 he once again took the rainbow and Belgian stripes alongside the win at the World Cup and the DVV Verzekeringen Trofee, effectively consolidating his position as one of the commanding figures in cycling, whilst taking his first serious steps on the road.
In 2017-2018 he took a hattrick, winning the World Championships this time in Valkenburg. Van der Poel had won the most in that season, but in the big day the Belgian had the upper hand. The battle raged on in 2018-2019, where van Aert settled for second at the Worlds and Europeans behind his rival, whilst Toon Aerts narrowly defeated him in the World Cup. Van Aert had fully switched to his focus on the road in the meantime, returning from a serious leg injury which kept him far from the lead during his short 2019-2020 season, where he only won a race but didn't manage to finish on the podium of the Worlds.
With his eyes on a fourth World title, van Aert began his 2020-2021 season earlier, however with a specific focus. Because of a severely cut World Cup calendar due to Covid-19, van Aert managed to win it despite his reduced calendar, but saw himself again behind van der Poel in the World Championships in Oostende. His 2021-2022 season was again short, this time opting out of the World Championships. Despite this he won 9 out of 10 races, signaling he was amongst the very best.
As for his presence in the road, it started in 2013. Throughout the first years of his career his full focus in Cyclocross didn't see him active or performing at a high level on the road, but in 2016 he began giving signs, with a win at the Baloise Belgium Tour and Schaal Sels - alongside a runner-up at the Dwars door het Hageland giving very promising signs of a classics rider and time-trialist in the making. In the 2017 season, as he joined the Vérandas Willems-Crelan team, at Pro Continental (now termed ProTeam) level, his calendar allowed him to further compete amongst the world's best classics riders.
With Cyclocross as the priority, naturally it was a summer-based calendar. Van Aert won in quick succession the Ronde van Limburg, the Bruges Cycling Classic and the GP Cerami, alongside other strong results. 2018 was his breakthrough year however, as early in the season the Belgian team was invited to Strade Bianche and where he finished an impressive third position, famously collapsing in the Via Santa Caterina with cramps before making it to the finish. This performance saw the Belgian team invited to all the major cobbled classics, with him finishing 9th at the Tour des Flandres and 13th at Paris-Roubaix. His season was not done yet however, as later in the year he took a stage and overall win at the Tour of Denmark, and finished third in the European Championships before switching off for another CX season.
Aware of his talent and results, van Aert was signed by Jumbo-Visma into 2019. What would follow was another strong transformation, with a completely different structure and team around him. 2019 saw him ride into the podium of Strade Bianche again, sixth at Milano-Sanremo and second at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic. His spring was short, but he returned to the peloton to win two stages and the points classification at the Critérium du Dauphiné, followed by the national championships time-trial. His Tour de France debut followed, where the Belgian won his first stage in Albi in a wind-swept stage finishing in a bunch sprint. He abandoned the race in the 13th stage with a bad crash, as mentioned above.
It was a long recovery, but a very successful one, as van Aert entered the 2020 season almost immediately winning, with superb triumphs at Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo, two incredibly important early-season wins - although the latter took place in August due to the pandemic. He revalidated his time-trial national title, and jumped into a very important Tour de France, where he won two stages whilst heavily supporting the team's ambitions to win the yellow jersey - which spectacularly came down on the 20th stage as Tadej Pogacar took the lead from Primoz Roglic in the final time-trial.
His season ended with a streak of second places, in both races of the World Championships and the Tour des Flandres, amazing consistency but surely disappointing to the incredibly versatile star. In 2021 that streak would continue as he finished second in the Road Race of the Olympic Games - and later on once again in the time-trial Worlds. His 2021 season saw more wins however with the wins at Gent-Wevelgem and Amstel Gold Race, aswell as two stages at Tirreno-Adriatico. Fourth at Strade Bianche, second at the GC at Tirreno and third at Milano-Sanremo were further highlights of his early season.
In June he won the road race national championships, and set off with the same role for the Tour de France. With the early abandon of his leader Roglic van Aert got more freedom, which he used to win three stages in three different terrains - high mountain, time-trial and bunch sprint at Champs-Élysées. His late season saw him win the Tour of Britain - alongside three stages, but his status as the best sprinter amongst all classics riders saw him in a position of having to respond and being pressured to chase for many. This has seen him struggle in his home World Championships in Leuven and later at Paris-Roubaix, where he finished 11th and 7th respectively.
2022 saw him start his season on fire with a win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and one at Paris-Nice - where he was incredibly consistent. Having learnt from his mistakes of the past, he decided to ignore the GC at some stage-races ahead of big goals, which saw him in great form towards the spring classics, where he won E3 Saxo Bank Classic convincingly. A covid-19 infection took him out ahead of the Tour des Flandres however, but he bounced back to finish on the podium of both Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
His second half of the season saw him win two stages at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and head for a magical Tour de France, where his biggest dreams came true as the team conquered the yellow jersey, van Aert easily dominated the points classification and again won three stages, completing a long pursuit for the Tour de France win from the Dutch team.
Following the Tour van Aert won the Bretagne Classic, finished second at the BEMER Cyclassics and GP de Montréal, and finished fourth at the GP de Québec and the World Championships road race where his compatriot Remco Evenepoel took the win. Into the winter van Aert entered the cyclocross season with tremendous form winning the World Cup races in Dublin and Zonhoven alongside several other wins. He and Mathieu van der Poel entered the World Championships virtually at the same level, but he had to settle for a second place in Hoogerheide.
The spring classics campaign saw a van Aert in top form but without the major win he seeked. He finished third at Milano-Sanremo, victory at the E3 Saxo Classic, second at Gent-Wevelgem, fourth at the Tour of Flanders and third at Paris-Roubaix. He punctured whilst attacking in the latter and had to settle for a podium result. He won the time-trial nationals ahead of the Tour de France where he chased stage wins and supporting Jonas Vingegaard - successfully - however he came up short in his individual ambitions. Whilst he won the Tour of Britain and the Coppa Bernocchi late in the year, he finished second at both European and World Championships behind Christophe Laporte and Mathieu van der Poel respectively.
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