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Van Aert and Evenepoel to ride time trial for Belgium at Tokyo Olympics

Belgian national coach Sven Vanthourenhout has confirmed that Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel will ride the individual time trial at the Tokyo Olympics, with Victor Campenaerts missing out on selection.

Evenepoel was already effectively guaranteed his place after taking the silver medal in the event at the 2019 World Championships, and Vanthourenhout has now revealed that Van Aert – the silver medallist in the time trial and road race at the 2020 Worlds – will take the second available berth for the rescheduled Olympics, while Campenaerts remains on standby. 

Competitors in the individual time trial must also line out as part of the five-man selection for the road race.

“The selection of Remco Evenepoel has theoretically been fixed for a while. If he gets back to normal after his injury, that is. And the second time triallist will in principle be Wout van Aert,” Vanthourenhout said in an interview on the Belgian Cycling website.

Evenepoel has not raced since he fractured his pelvis in a heavy crash at Il Lombardia last August. The Deceuninck-QuickStep rider is not scheduled to return to action until the Giro d’Italia on May 8, with the corsa rosa likely to be his only competitive outing ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Van Aert placed second at the cyclo-cross Worlds last month and the Jumbo-Visma rider is due to begin his road season at Strade Bianche next weekend. He is set to ride the Tour de France immediately prior to the Olympics.

Vanthourenhout paid tribute to Campenaerts’ time trialling success in Belgian colours in recent seasons, which he said had boosted the country’s standing in the discipline. The Qhubeka Assos rider was European time trial champion in 2017 and 2018, and he also took a bronze medal at the Innsbruck Worlds in 2018.

“Victor knows what I think about things, and he will keep himself ‘on standby’ if there is a problem with Remco or Wout,” Vanthourenhout said. “It’s not easy for him, I know. It bothers me a bit too, because I know well enough how much we all owe to Victor Campenaerts.

“As a country, we are now world leaders in time trialling, but we must never forget that we have him to thank for that. As a federation we have done everything in recent years […] to get that discipline going in our country again, but in the end, it was Victor who made it ‘sexy’ again for other riders. I hope and expect that I will be able to call on him often in the future.”

It remains to be seen who will join Evenepoel and Van Aert in the five-man Belgian team for the road race, which takes place on July 24, with Vanthourenhout noting that he currently has a longlist of 11 riders for the Olympics. He suggested that he might field a youthful squad for the European Championships in Trento in mid-September given that the Road World Championships on home roads in Leuven follow later that month.

“The time span between the Olympic Games and the World Championships in Flanders – with the European Championships in between – is quite short. Three great titles are at stake in two months, so that means making choices,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure there will be some riders who will double up by combining the Olympics with the Worlds, for example. Looking at the courses, there are even riders who could perform well in all three, but I’m not naïve either. As national coach, you also have to take into account that trade teams must make their riders available to the federation, and I don’t think a team is eager to give up an athlete three times in such a short space of time.”

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