Wout van Aert, whose Jumbo-Visma team said yesterday that he was “unlikely” to ride the Tour of Flanders on Sunday due to illness, will definitely now miss the race after testing positive for COVID-19.
The 27-year-old headed into the cobbled classics season in fine form, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the end of Friday, and just last Friday he also won the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, but missed out on being in the winning move at Gent-Wevelgem last Sunday.
In a statement released this evening by Jumbo-Visma, the Belgian champion said: “Since yesterday morning, I have had a slight sore throat. I immediately did two self-tests and they were both positive. I then did a PCR test, which showed that I tested strongly positive.
“The good news is that I only have mild symptoms, just a sore throat and a cold. My focus is on recovering now. I want to be fully recovered before thinking about the future again.”
He continued: “Over the last two years and the last months and weeks, I've put a lot of effort into avoiding infection. But you are still exposed to many risks, and you don't always have things in your own hands.”
Van Aert, who missed Wednesday’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen, also thanked his fans for their support since news emerged yesterday that he was highly doubtful for the Monument.
“It gave me a lot of pleasure reading everyone is so concerned with me,” he said. “I want to thank everyone for their support over the last few days. I will now be my teammates' biggest fan on Sunday.”
Jumbo-Visma sports director Arthur Van Dongen said: “Examinations have confirmed that Wout is not fit. He is not very sick but not competitive enough to start in the Tour of Flanders. He now has to take a break and then we will set new goals.
“It’s unfortunate for Wout but certainly for Belgium and the team. Knowing Wout, he will come back stronger than ever.
“We will sit down with the team, make a new plan and discuss how we can win the Ronde with the new team composition,” with Tiejs Benoot and Christophe Laporte – pipped on the line at Gent-Wevelgem as Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux’s 21-year-old Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay took an historic win – now spearheading its attack.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.