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Jumbo-Visma director Merijn Zeeman confirmed Thursday that the iconic cobblestone monuments will return to the center of Van Aert’s all-angle ambitions in 2023.
“I spoke to Wout yesterday, and nothing has been decided about his program yet. But one thing is certain – the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are above all. We were decided with that very quickly,” Zeeman told Het Nieuwsblad. “But we’re still discussing what comes after.”
Van Aert amassed marquee victories all across the calendar in his template-defying blitz on pro cycling.
Milan-Sanremo, Amstel Gold Race, and Tour de France stages highlight the Belgian’s blockbuster palmarès. But his ultimate prizes – Flanders and Roubaix – remain elusive.
Next year will see Van Aert on a mission to better his second-place finishes in the northern spring’s two kingmaker races.
The rest of the 28-year-old’s road calendar for 2023? Who knows.
“We have to see what is possible and what is not. There is the world championships in Glasgow – which will take place earlier next year [August – ed.] – there is the Giro which is also attractive, and he has never raced the Vuelta either. Everything is on the table,” Zeeman said.
“We could come up with something completely new, but it could also be copy-paste from last year. I am not Wout van Aert. He is a very sensible person and knows that a good plan is needed to be successful. But Wout is also someone who likes to try new things.”
Helping Jumbo-Visma beat back Pogačar at the Tour
Zeeman later tempered the idea of sending Van Aert to rev his engine through the 70 time trial kilometers of the Giro d’Italia, and only confirmed the classics for his Belgian ace.
“His big goal is spring. And what comes next, we’re going to discuss,” the team DS told Wielerflits. “We are mainly working on making a good plan for him so that he can win the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix.”
Van Aert would most logically sit out the Giro in anticipation of a return to the Tour, where he this year won the green jersey, three stages, and helped haul Jonas Vingegaard toward yellow as Jumbo-Visma claimed its long-awaited maillot jaune.
Zeeman was reluctant to confirm to VeloNews earlier this week whether Vingegaard will return to defend his yellow jersey in the climber-centric Tour next summer.
But ASO’s subsequent Tour de France route reveal sees Jumbo-Visma ready to hit the planning-room for a series of meetings that will sketch out the coming season.
“The focus of this Tour is in the last week. With the Vosges, the riders get a solid finish. The Pyrénées are less tough than last year, but the block in the Alps is longer. There are mountain stages that are easier than in years past, but on the other hand, there are rides that are extremely tough. I accept the course: it’s something you have no control over,” Zeeman said.
“Now we can make our plan and define our strategy. With Roglič, Vingegaard, and Van Aert we have plenty of opportunities on this course to make a difference.”
Whether Vingegaard or Primož Roglič takes the captain’s armband next July, Jumbo-Visma already knows who it has to beat.
“Should there have been more time trials? Our biggest competitor is Tadej Pogačar, but he is also a time trial specialist,” Zeeman said.