Three-time world cyclocross champion Wout van Aert had an amazing race at Strade Bianche exceeding the highest expectations set for the talented 23-year-old Belgian. Van Aert finished third behind an unstoppable Tiesj Benoot and Romain Bardet as the racers faced brutally muddy conditions on the famed white gravel roads of Tuscany. On the finale ascent of the race into the beautiful Piazza Del Campo, van Aert cramped up after a full day of riding at his limit.
— Kingston Wheelers CC (@kingstonwheeler) March 3, 2018
The slopes of the final climb pitch up to a leg aching 16 per cent. After a long day in the cold and rain, van Aert who has made a name for himself in ‘cross where races last just over an hour was visibility suffering. Towards the crest of the leg burning ascent on wide slabs of stone, van Aert cramped spectacularly. The moment was caught on video by a British spectator and shared on the Kingston Wheelers CC Twitter account.
With Bardet pushing on, van Aert was unable to respond and then towards the top of the climb his legs give out. The cramp overtakes the world cyclocross champions lower body as he tips over into the barrier on the side of the road.
Van Aert, who is perfectly accustomed to running his bike, gets to the top of the steep slope and tries to remount. His body too exhausted from the effort and giving way to the cramp does not remount with the smoothness cyclocross fans are accustomed to seeing. Instead, Van Aert struggles back into the saddle and is finally able to start pedalling towards the finish line which lies just beyond the next turns in the road.
— Strade Bianche (@StradeBianche) March 3, 2018
Arriving at the line completely empty, van Aert collapsed to the ground. After the finish he Tweeted out, “Bad timing for a cramp in both legs… Go hard or go home” in response to the video showing how much of a struggle it was to reach the finish line.
Bad timing for a cramp in both legs… Go hard or go home 🤘🏼 https://t.co/rgwEm1iJje
— Wout van Aert (@WoutvanAert) March 3, 2018
Van Aert finished 59 seconds behind winner Benoot ahead of the likes of Alejandro Valverde, Peter Sagan and Michal Kwiatkowski who all came into the race with higher expectations than the 23-year-old Belgium who is coming off a full cyclocross season capped by his third-consecutive world championships title.
— François Lamiraud (@LamiraudF) March 3, 2018