Wout van Aert at the Tour of Norway.

Wout van Aert is racing again but faces a long climb back to top form

Are you a glass-half-full kind of person or a glass-half-empty kind of person?

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 24.05.2024 More from Dane +

If you’re a glass-half-full kind of Wout van Aert fan, you may be glad to know that the Visma-Lease a Bike star has returned to racing this week at the Tour of Norway, just under two months after the crash at Dwars door Vlaanderen that derailed his Classics campaign. If you’re a glass-half-empty kind of Wout van Aert fan, you may be disappointed to learn that he was dropped before the finish for the second straight day on Friday’s stage 2.

On the one hand, the versatile Belgian is finally back. On the other, he clearly still has some ground to cover to get back to full strength with the Tour de France and the Paris Olympics not far off.

Until Thursday’s opening stage in Norway, Van Aert had been out of action since March 27, when he broke his sternum, collarbone, and seven ribs in a pileup that brought several riders down at Dwars. He had been planning to race this year’s Giro d’Italia, but that plan went out the window due to his injuries.

That he has been able to get back to racing at the Tour of Norway barely two months later is a testament to how quickly elite athletes can recover from multiple broken bones – but Van Aert said on Thursday that he had been hoping for better in his return.

“It may be noticeable that I am not very happy, because I had not hoped to suffer like this,” Van Aert said after stage 1. “But I just have to get on with it now.”

He also appeared to been involved in a minor crash on stage 2, suffering a scraped elbow but otherwise remounting without incident.

Even Wout van Aert, it seems, is human, and even Wout van Aert seems pretty bummed about that fact. His crash earlier this year ruined what looked like a promising Classics campaign and kept him from making his Giro d’Italia debut, but the second half of his season remains up in the air. Although he had originally planned to skip the Tour, his altered plans seemed to open the door for a Tour de France start with the Olympics – a major goal – coming shortly thereafter.

According to Cyclingnews, Visma-Lease a Bike is hoping that Van Aert is fit for racing the upcoming Tour, where the team will also have to wait and see whether two-time champion Jonas Vingegaard can make the start after his own crash earlier this year. Manager Richard Plugge said recently that Vingegaard won’t ride the Tour unless he is at 100%; if he doesn’t, that makes the presence of top Visma riders like Van Aert even more crucial.

So a trip to Florence for the Grand Depart is still a possibility for Van Aert, and perhaps by the time the Olympic road race and time trial roll around, he will be closer to full strength. For now, however, we will have to wait and see how his situation develops, and Van Aert will have to content himself with a gradual return to form.

“It is not a normal feeling for me to just ride there and suffer in the peloton,” he said, “but I know that this is part of it now.”

What did you think of this story?