But as Flanders, the final Monument of 2020, approaches Van Aert says he has put the race behind him and says he doesn’t intend to be caught again on the Belgian cobbles.
The 26-year-old told cycling website Weilerflits: “Well, that rivalry has been going on for years and has not changed for me after Ghent-Wevelgem. I am not racing against Mathieu, I am racing to win.”
On his comments after the finish of Ghent-Wevelgem, Van Aert said: “I wasn’t angry for long. I was interviewed immediately after the finish, when the adrenaline was still playing.
“It’s not that I’ve changed my mind now. Certainly in the final kilometre Mathieu showed that the victory was less important to him. I can’t get rid of that idea.”
Van Aert’s frustration stemmed from the final kilometres of Ghent-Wevelgem, when he attacked the leading group multiple times, only to be chased down by his old cyclocross rival Van der Poel, as Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) escaped with a small group and took the victory.
The pair finished eighth and ninth.
Controversially, Van der Poel is currently the bookies’ favourite to win Flanders on Sunday, with Wout van Aert close behind, but it is the latter who has better results this year, with victories in Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche and stages of the Tour de France.
Van Aert said: “The Tour of Flanders is more difficult.
“For my part, I have learned lessons from it. I do not intend to be caught a second time.”