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Wout Van Aert returns to racing five months after Tour de France crash

Jumbo-Visma rider fifth in DVV Trofee Azencross

Belgian dynamo Wout Van Aert returned to bike racing in Friday’s fifth round of the DVV Trofee in Loenhout. The cyclocross contest was the first competition for the Jumbo-Visma rider since his horrific time trial crash in Stage 13 of the Tour de France on July 19, three days after he had won his first Tour stage. Van Aert had to undergo surgery in August to correct insufficient procedures soon after the crash. At Azencross Mathieu van der Poel proved once again he could withstand early difficulties to win a race.

Speaking of crashes, the broken ribs that Toon Aerts suffered in the Namur round of World Cup proved too much for the GC second place man, who skipped the round. Series leader Eli Iserbyt was looking to come back from a couple of disappointing rounds of the World Cup. The course was characterized by flyovers, washboard, muddy ruts and a lack of natural climbs.

Van Aert led Mathieu van der Poel into the first flyover. Van der Poel managed an uphill endo on the flyover and was far back on Lap 1. Van Aert chose to run the planks instead of bunnyhopping. Soon, Tim Merlier was leading with Van Aert fifth. After Merlier went over the handlebars in a rut, Iserbyt grabbed the reins.

After one lap Iserbyt led Corne van Kessel by a second and Wout Van Aert driving a long train 8-seconds in arrears. Van der Poel was still picking his way through the field and made the junction at the end of Lap 2. Iserbyt and van Kessel went into Lap 3 leading Merlier, van der Poel, Laurens Sweeck and Jim Aernouts by 23-seconds, Van Aert’s group farther behind.

Van der Poel dropped Merlier and the rest and drew closer to the leading duo on Lap 3. Iserbyt left van Kessel going into Lap 4. Van der Poel flew past van Kessel.

Van der Poel closes on Iserbyt heading into Lap 5.

Van der Poel found Iserbyt’s rear wheel on Lap 5. Lap 7 was when the Dutchman thought he had finally rid himself of the Belgian, but no. Van Aert started Lap 7 is 6th place.

The bell lap proved too much for Iserbyt. It was another day, another confetti cannon for the dominant world champion. Van Aert couldn’t dislodge Merlier for fourth.

Michael van den Ham was the top Canadian in 25th, with Cameron Jette 45th.

Van Aert is targeting March’s Milan-San Remo, where he was 6th in 2019, and heading back to the Tour de France as part of Jumbo’s “Murderers’ Row” to take on Team Ineos.

2019-2020 DVV Trofee Round 5, Loenhout, Belgium, Elite Men
1) Matheiu van der Poel (The Netherlands/Corendon Circus) 1:00:27
2) Eli Iserbyt (Belgium/Pauwels-Sauzen Bigoal) +0:09
3) Corne van Kessel (The Netherlands/Telenet Baloise Lions) +0:52
5) Wout Van Aert (Belgium/Lotto-Visma) +1:14
25) Michael van den Ham (Canada) +6:20
45) Cameron Jette (Canada)