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Two of cyclocross’s biggest names are plotting a comeback.
Three-time world champion Zdenek Stybar and three-time world champ Wout Van Aert each hope to be protagonists on the mud. Stybar confirmed he will race a series of cyclocross events while Van Aert, still nursing injuries from a devastating crash in July at the Tour de France, hopes to race before the cyclocross season is out.
“I am very happy to be able to ride in [cyclocross] again,” Stybar said Wednesday. “The cyclocross rides not only fit well in my program, but the ambiance is always great with a big audience. I have the same goal as last year: having fun and getting ready for the new [road] season.”
Stybar could line up for as many as eight events in SuperPrestige, WorldCup and other races. Now heading into his 10th road season, Stybar said hitting a few select cyclocross events help set him up for the spring classics. In 2019, the Czech rider had a breakout spring campaign, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the E3 BinckBank Classic.
Van Aert, meanwhile, is also plotting a return to racing, ideally with some cyclocross races on the horizon as he continues recovery from his crash at the Tour de France. Van Aert, who won the “Flanders Rider of the Year” prize overnight in Belgium, said he hopes to race sooner rather than later.
“I hope to be able to do some cross this winter,” Van Aert told Het Nieuwsblad. “I also think it’s necessary. It would be fun for myself and for the fans.”
Van Aert went on his longest off-road training ride last week, clocking three hours as his recovery continues. Injuries were worse than initially expected in the wake of the crash, when he fell into barriers lining the time trial course.
Van Aert is realistic about his chances against longtime rival Mathieu van der Poel and others already racing and performing.
“I will race as soon as I feel that I can,” he said. “I think I would rather start a few extra cyclocross races and only be 15th, rather than not race cross and try to train myself in another way.
“I am happy with how things are going and things are looking good,” he said. “We are now two months before the Belgian nationals. I have no training or condition yet, let alone racing. My longest training ride so far was three hours. If I were to race ‘cross, it will be mainly with the intention of regaining the rhythm and difficulty of competition.”