Time trialing is a discipline which you need to have if you want to be an all-rounder. There’s at least one race against the clock in every major grand tour, and if you don’t perform well in them, you can lose minutes in a single day. We’re not saying it’s easy to keep up on a mountain stage if you’re not a climber but then at least you have a view of what the competition’s doing. You see them riding off and can roughly estimate how much time you’re losing. You can also be helped by your team mates in those situations. But in a time trial, you’re all on your own. In today’s peloton there are a lot of riders who ride well in grand tours. But there are very few riders who are specialised in time trialing. Victor Campenaerts is one of those, and as such, we see his name being mentioned more and more as a rider to watch.
Victor Campenaerts: the time trialist who’s still discovering himself
That was proven amply during the UCI time trial World Championships. All eyes were on the major clash between Rohan Dennis and Tom Dumoulin. It turned out that Dennis was quite a bit stronger than everyone else and Dumoulin only just managed to get silver ahead of Victor Campenaerts. At that point we knew that Campenaerts was good, but not that he was that good!
Victor Campenaerts began his career at Topsport Vlaanderen, following on from quite a lot of success in the junior ranks. He spent two years there learning the trade. He won nothing worth writing home about. Nevertheless, he was spotted as a talent by several teams, and in 2016, he moved over to Lotto NL Jumbo, a team which at that time was busy finding itself and looking into which races would suit it and the young Belgian fitted perfectly into the squad.
Campenaerts rode well as a member of the collective during his first season. His role was to deliver sprinters to the front of the pack and protect the team leaders. He was also given the opportunity to discover his potential as a time trialist. Not without success. In 2016, he won the Belgian national championships, his biggest win up until that point. He was also second in the European Championships.
In 2017, Campenaerts continued to grow. In the Vuelta a Andalucia he won the third stage (indeed, a time trial) and also ended among the top positions in races like the Tour of Britain, Rund um Koln and the Brabantse Pijl. He did not repeat his success at the national championships but got revenge by winning the European Time Trial Championships. Then there was a spat in the team: he wasn’t allowed to ride ‘full gas’ during the Giro time trial as the team felt he should save energy in order to better serve the team leader Steven Kruijswijk. Campenaerts was not amused. By the end of the 2017 season, he left to join the Belgian Lotto Soudal squad.
He was given more freedom there to develop his time trialing speciality. This meant he only rode good results during championships. Not only was he third in the World Champs, but he was also crowned national and European time trial champion. Also, he only just turned 27 years old, so we can keep an eye on him for a few years to come.