The 29-year-old missed out on a Super 8 Classic showdown with Mathieu van der Poel at the weekend after his Jumbo-Visma team announced he was “not completely fit”, missing several days of training in the process before returning on Sunday.
Van Aert will take on both the time trial (September 20) and road race (September 24) at the European Championships in the Netherlands, sharing co-leadership of the Belgian selection with Arnaud De Lie at the latter.
“Wout stayed off the bike for a day or two. These were not crucial training days but, of course, illness is never the ideal scenario. Recovery always uses up energy,” Vanthourenhout told Het Nieuwsblad.
“I expect Wout to be fit. I know he was able to do what he had to in terms of training for the road race and time trial.”
The 42-year-old coach said that his preparation for the race won’t be as “intense” as it was for last month’s UCI Road World Championships in Glasgow, where he took second in the road race and fifth in the time trial.
However, after Van Aert won a stage and the overall at the Jumbo-Visma-dominated Tour of Britain earlier this month, Vanthourenhout isn’t concerned about his form.
“He hasn’t had the same intense preparation as for the World Championships, but he should certainly be competitive,” Vanthourenhout said. “I don’t want to be negative – I look at the Tour of Britain where he was in good shape and mentally fresh.”
The road race, which runs for 200km from Assen to the Col du VAM, taking in seven ascents of the hill, should result in a reduced bunch sprint, said Vanthourenhout. He noted that his two leaders, Van Aert and De Lie, should be well-suited to the route, saying that having a pair of co-leaders will only help Belgium’s chances of success.
“We explored the run-in to the local laps,” he said. “We’re going to have a nervous and chaotic race where having two leaders only adds value. We’ll see a very thinned-out group and I don’t expect a sprint of more than 10 or 15. Hopefully, there will be two of us there.
“A choice will always be made which can’t be estimated in advance. I have a clear idea about where the cards lie at the moment, but the race can always decide differently. We’ll make a good agreement between two honest guys who know that they will often ride championships together in future.”
Van Aert and De Lie head up an eight-man selection for the road race, with Jasper De Buyst, Tim Declercq, Yves Lampaert, Jasper Stuyven, Edward Theuns, and Florian Vermeersch also starting.
Van Aert and Lampaert will also take on the 29.5km time trial in Emmen, while Lotte Kopecky leads the Belgium women’s teams for both the time trial and road race.