Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) needs to add a “wallop” to his attacking repertoire on the bike if he wants to avoid more near-misses in cycling’s biggest races, according to The Breakaway cast.
The Belgian finished a distant second to compatriot Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) at Paris-Roubaix after playing the role of chaser on a difficult outing in France.
He always faced an uphill battle after being distanced by an opportunistic early move from Ineos which splintered the peloton in two with over 200km remaining.
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Van Aert battled gamely to get back into contention and was regular sighted on the front of the various chase groups, rarely taking a moment to shield himself behind his rivals and conserve energy.
When asked by Breakaway host Orla Chennaoui whether Van Aert knows any style of riding except all-out attack, Dan Lloyd replied: “He doesn’t seem to.
“Van Aert was always on the back foot today. Although he had team-mates up the road, he was always stuck in that group behind.
“He just never got himself to the front of the race. Being in the Belgian national champion’s jersey and being Wout van Aert, everyone’s eyes are going to be on him because of the champion that he is.”
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The 27-year-old only returned to action at Paris-Roubaix after a bout of Covid, having missed last weekend’s Tour of Flanders.
Magnus Backstedt, who claimed a memorable win at the 2004 edition of the Hell of the North, said hesitation probably cost him a shot of victory.
“He never really put that massive attack in,” said Backstedt.
“He was riding on the front a lot and upping the pace a lot… but when he went, he never really went full gas and tried to make the move. He actually ran out of legs a little bit.
“When Van Baarle and [Matej] Mohoric went, I think he just had that moment of ‘OK, I haven’t quite got the legs right now, if I make this effort it’s going to cost me too much’. And that hesitation caused him to lose the race.”
Meanwhile, Adam Blythe said that the versatile star should tweak his tactics and bide his time before delivering a fatal blow.
“He’s got a marker on his back. If he goes, everyone’s going to follow,” he said.
“If Van Aert goes, you’ve got to go. He was trying to get that elastic to snap. Looking at the way he races, it’s almost like he needs to take a backseat, play the bluff – ‘I’m not good, I’m not good’.
“If he can play that bluff and just goes wallop, gets the speed up, it’s going to be so hard to get him back because he can sprint like a monster, he can a time trial… what can’t he do?”
'You’re too close!' – Lampaert collides with spectator in scary crash at Paris-Roubaix
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