Once in a while a pro cyclist hits a hot streak and it seems like he or she can do no wrong. Consider the defending UCI world champion, Annemiek van Vleuten, who so far this season has won everything worth winning in women’s road racing: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa, Clasica Femenina Navarra, Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria, and last weekend’s Strade Bianche. You’d be crazy to bet against her right now, in a one-day race, in a stage race, or in a time trial.
Then there’s Wout van Aert, who yesterday completed an amazing Strade Bianche / Milano-Sanremo double, winning very different races by employing very different tactics. It’s to Van Aert that I owe today’s headline. Sure, “Double Take” could simply refer to his pair of victories, but I literally did a double take when I noted in Sunday’s race summary that he’s still only 25 years old! It doesn’t seem possible. Cyclocross fan that I am, I’ve been watching Van Aert for years. He was world champion in 2016, 2017, and 2018 … not as a U23 racer, but at the elite level! You wonder how far he can go. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that he will get at least one good shot at becoming the world champion on the road someday.
It’s great to have racing again, and there’s more in the week to come. The Critérium du Dauphiné, probably the most important tuneup for the Tour de France, starts on Wednesday. All five stages will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Gold, so I know what I’ll be having with my breakfast. Il Lombardia will run on Saturday, and that’s a great one-day race but I doubt I’ll be able to find a stream I can watch here in the States.
Speaking of streaming coverage … USA Cycling’s decision on August 6 to move cyclocross nationals from suburban Chicago to Iowa City means I won’t be attending the championships in person, so I hope USA Cycling streams the event as it has in recent years. But really I don’t expect the championships to occur at all. COVID-19 is still an ugly reality, and the fact that Iowa has fewer public health restrictions than Illinois doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to hold the races. It would be mighty strange to have national championships for a sport that didn’t have a regular season, and one wonders about the legitimacy of the competition when so many of the best racers will skip the event due to the risk of infection. Keep your fingers crossed for a widely-available vaccine before December.