Look out for Wout van Aert!
ALLEZ - JV Araneta (The Freeman) - August 10, 2020 - 12:00am

The professional cycling season finally started last week after it was halted mid-March by the pandemic. With all the dynamics that happened at the start area, the race course and the finishing area, it would seem that cycling was simply going to write off the 2020 cycling season and reboot for 2021.

However, reputations were at stake, sponsors needed to get value in return of their investment and more importantly for me, the mental state of the cycling fans forced to stay at home for the lockdown, well, the sport had to come back.

But unlike in the NBA or the UFC it was just impossible for cycling to have a “bubble” or a “fight island”. They also needed the approval of the different states that the races will pass though and every state has its own set of rules. So far, the UCI, the International Cycling Union, has pulled it off. But don’t celebrate yet, covid-19 is just lurking out there. And until a vaccine is approved, cycling is just a rise in the curve away from being cancelled again.

I really appreciate the attitude of the cycling fans on the roadside, 99% of them wearing masks.

However, the biggest news in cycling is the emergence of two Belgian superstars, Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel, casting a long shadow on the shine of Peter Sagan. I’ll talk first about WVA first.  Most of you ay not have heard of WVA but previous to 2018, he did purely cyclocross. Unlike bicycle road races, cyclocross are done mostly on dirt and the route contains man made obstacles and the event is just over an hour long, making these races explosive.

While ‘cross is not very popular here, it is a very popular winter event in Europe and to a certain extent, in the US when road racers take their annual break. WVA, was world champion of cyclocross thrice (16’, 17’, 18’)  and thrice national champion. His only true rival is also a budding superstar on the road, Matthiue van Der Poel, who also WC thrice (15’, 19’, 20’).

Both knew that cyclocross’s reach was not was wide as road races so in 2018, WVA crossed over to road racing. In 2019, he signed up with Jumbo-Visma and in his debut in the Tour de France, won two stages before a nasty and a potentially career-ending crash occurred when his knee caught a protruding part of a race fence.

He had a long and arduous rehabilitation and there were some quarters who believed that he could never get back to the same form just before the accident.

When Covid19 cancelled all the races, WVA, continued to hone his form. Then, two weeks ago happened. He won the first major one day event of this season, the Strada Bianchi, in dominant fashion, after coming in third last year. But he wasn’t finished, he was just getting started. Last Saturday, he finally won the big one, the first monument of the season, Milan-San Remo. He bested defending champion Juliane Alaphilippe by half a wheel in this 305km of a beast of a race.

Wout’s name may be difficult to say but once he keeps his winning habit, it’ll be easier to remember the name.

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