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One big engine will be cooling off just as the other gets revved up Wednesday.
Jumbo-Visma announced this week that Wout van Aert will sit out Dwars door Vlaanderen while UAE Team Emirates confirmed that Tadej Pogačar will be on the line for the mid-week Tour of Flanders tune-up.
And as if the prospect of seeing the two-time Tour de France champion tackle the bumps and bergs of Belgium isn’t enough, Alpecin-Fenix also confirmed Mathieu van der Poel is down for Dwars ahead of his return to Flanders, a race he won in 2020.
The big intrigue for Wednesday’s classic will be seeing Pogačar tackling the tough stones of northern Belgium.
The cobblestone rookie will have experienced classics-basher Matteo Trentin for company at both Dwars and De Ronde in what will be his introduction to Flemish racing.
“The shape is good and hopefully we can be near the front, but I’m under no illusions about the cobbles,” Pogačar said Tuesday. “I know this is a different kind of racing than normal. But I’ll try to soak it all in and enjoy as much as possible.
“My teammate Matteo Trentin knows these classic races as well as anyone, so we’ll look to his experience in the team for sure. It’s a bit of a step into the unknown, but one I’m very excited for.”
Dwars door Vlaanderen will serve Pogačar a perfect appetizer ahead of the battery of bergs and bump on tap for the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.
Wednesday’s 183km race stacks five cobbled sections and 13 climbs into an ideal taster ahead of Sunday’s feast of all-things Flandrien.
“I’ve really been looking forward to coming to Flanders,” Pogačar said. “The history and passion for cycling in Belgium is unique and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Van Aert, Laporte cool jets after E3, Gent-Wevelgem escapades
Contrastingly, van Aert and his Jumbo-Visma wingman Christophe Laporte have seen more-than-enough of Belgium in recent weeks.
The terrible twosome took the top steps of the E3 Classic last Friday before being undone by Biniam Girmay at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.
Both van Aert and Laporte will sit out Dwars on Wednesday and pass the team captaincy torch to domestiques-de-luxe Tiesj Benoot and Mike Teunissen.
Van Aert suggested he was missing the percentage point needed to defend his title at Gent-Wevelgem after his exploits at E3. So, some space to set his engine to a low hum this week should see him firing full throttle for Sunday’s must-win monument.
Benoot and Teunissen are expected to play a key role in van Aert’s quest to capture the Flanders crown after their day out in Dwars – Wednesday will give them the opportunity to deliver a report card on just what Pogačar and van der Poel could pull in Sunday’s big show.
Jumbo-Visma for Dwars door Vlaanderen:
Mick van Dijke
UAE Team Emirates for Dwars door Vlaanderen:
Vegard Stake Laengen