Wout van Aert is Belgian champion: ‘Dedicate this victory to a deceased friend’

Wout van Aert became champion of Belgium for the very first time in his career on Sunday afternoon. The 26-year-old driver was the fastest after a ride over 221.3 kilometers. Van Aert defeated his fellow refugees Edward Theuns and Remco Evenepoel in Waregem, where the race started and ended.

Van Aert defeated Theuns in the nick of time and was emotional afterwards. “I dedicate this victory to my good friend ‘De Smol’ (Glenn Smolderen, ed), who lost his unequal battle against bone cancer last month, barely 26 years old,” Van Aert told Sporza. “I thought about him a lot. I had to work hard to get here, but he gave me strength.”

“I actually had it in my head for 3 weeks to win this race for him, although I didn’t tell anyone that. It looked like I didn’t have the legs to do that, but apparently he has given me extra strength given.”

Round of France
Due to his victory, the Jumbo-Visma rider will start the Tour de France next Saturday in the Belgian jersey. He recovered just in time from an operation on his appendix. “In any case, this gives a lot of confidence,” said the man who won 2 stages last year.

“A lot of riders came to ask if I hadn’t spoiled my eyes over the past few weeks, but I was really unsure at the start here. I hope I can show my jersey in the Tour. It’s one of the most beautiful of the pack.”

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