Wout Van Aert nearly 'goes to heaven' in training incident with cement mixer
Wout Van Aert described being besieged by a flurry of messages concerned for his welfare after his training buddy Jan Bakelants recounted a near-death experience the Jumbo-Visma rider had at the hands of a rogue cement mixer.
After being aggressively cut-up while out on a training ride in the Netherlands, the Belgian star had no choice but to drive the rider next to him off the road, "otherwise, he might have gone to heaven", says Bakelants.
The incident happened earlier this week, and now-retired Bakelants was speaking on Belgian outlet Sporza's 'Wielerclub Wattage' podcast.
Van Aert was riding with Bakelants and former Belgian pro Daan Soete, and had eschewed the cycle path in favour of the road.
"Wout had to do interval training, but the cycle path on that road was not suitable for speeds of 40 to 45kph," explains Bakelants. "I know from my own experience that the average Dutch person dares to take the law into their own hands if they see that a cyclist is not riding on the bike path."
And that is apparently exactly what happened: "After five minutes of cycling on the road, I suddenly heard the horn of a concrete mixer, which drove past us at the same time," says Bakelants.
"As befits a true road pirate, the driver of the concrete mixer 'closed the door' while honking."
With Van Aert having been subjected to the punishment pass, Bakelants says, "Wout had no choice but to drive Daan into the side. Otherwise [he] might have gone to heaven. The action of the concrete mixer was really disproportionate."
Van Aert himself also answered questions about the incident at a separate press conference.
He recounts: "The timing was especially unfortunate. I received a lot of worried messages, even from my wife – who thought I was almost run over at this very moment. It was all for nothing. Still alive!"
"These are incidents that unfortunately happen almost every day on the road," says the Belgian, who won the E3 Saxo Bank Classic last weekend and gifted Gent-Wevelgem to his teammate Christophe Laporte the following day, coming second himself.
"We are still alive. It was certainly not a safe situation, but I was not nearly dead either."
Van Aert lines up as a key favourite for this Sunday's Tour of Flanders, where he will face among others Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates).