Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert completed a mainly off-road 320km ride on Saturday as part of retired pro Laurens ten Dam's 'Dirty Kanzelled' event, set up to replace the postponed 200-mile Dirty Kanza gravel race in Kansas.
Ten Dam – who retired from professional cycling at the end of last season, and now rides gravel events around the world – was due to ride the Dirty Kanza in the US on Saturday, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced the organisers to postpone the event until September. Instead, Ten Dam came up with the concept of the Dirty Kanzelled, and invited riders to take on their own gravel or off-road rides over the same distance of 200 miles (321.2km).
Three-time cycle-cross world champion and 2019 Tour de France stage winner Van Aert was onboard, and completed his ride in Belgium alongside Jumbo-Visma teammate Maarten Wynants and a friend from the elite cyclo-cross circuit, Daan Soete (Group Hens–Maes Containers), who finished third in the opening round of the 2019/20 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup in Iowa City, in the US, in September.
"It seemed like a nice challenge to us to participate in something like this during this period," Van Aert said on Saturday after the ride, according to Het Nieuwsblad. "And, yes, it was fun."
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It was Van Aert himself who worked out the trio's route, which he said was "as much as possible off-road; that was always the intention".
He admitted that the route chosen wasn't perfect, and that they got lost a couple of times, but that he enjoyed the challenge of trying to work out an appropriate route that ticked all the boxes.
"You also needed some preparation-time to get your bike in order so that you could bring enough with you," he said. "You were supposed to only stop twice, so that was half the fun already. And by doing something like this, you realise that you miss those challenges, so this was a good replacement."
As for Soete – who's more used to racing at a high intensity for just an hour at cyclo-cross races – the Belgian told Het Laatste Nieuws what it was like riding with two WorldTour pros.
"It was especially long," he laughed. "It was a great day – a real adventure. Did I sit on their wheel a lot? You'll have to ask them that… But at certain times, I did – for sure – like when it was windy."
Soete might have been pleased to know that Van Aert also found the going tough.
"I'm now going to take it easy for a couple of days," the 25-year-old said. "But the original Dirty Kanza is something I want to do someday. I'm always up for something like that."