Van Aert wants to join the club of the 5 Monuments winners
Wout Van Aert continues to set himself tough challenges. Despite enjoying, at 28 years of age, one of the best records in the history of cycling, the Belgian remains highly motivated. The next goal in his sights: to become the fourth cyclist to win all five monuments. At the moment, he only has the Milan-San Remo, which he won in 2020, which is said to be the most difficult classic to win.
Wout Van Aert faces his toughest challenge yet
Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Il Lombardia, the 5 monuments of cycling, the most legendary classics and the most demanding for a cyclist. Each event has its own characteristics and is so different from one another that it is extremely difficult for a cyclist to be so complete to be competitive in all of them.
In fact, throughout the history of the sport, only 3 cyclists have managed to win all of them at least once. Eddy Merckx, of course, tops the list. He is joined by two other Belgians: Roger de Vlaemick and Rick Van Looy. Wout Van Aert aims to be the fourth to achieve such a feat, as he stated in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.
However, with the specialisation that reigns in cycling today, winning the five monuments is a difficult task due to the disparity of skills required to succeed in each of them.
Milan-San Remo is the classic of speed, although not only you need to be a fast rider to win it, you also need to be able to demonstrate that speed after 300 kilometres at breathtaking paces. Even so, because of its mainly flat profile it is a race open to a wider range of riders and often decided by subtle details which makes it the hardest race to win in the words of the riders themselves.
In fact, it is the one monument that has eluded the only rider who in recent years has had the option of winning all 5 monuments, the Belgian Philippe Gilbert, who after this season ends his prolific career. Fortunately for Wout Van Aert, he already won Milan-San Remo in 2020.
After La Primavera, it's the turn of the pavés with the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. These are perhaps the two classics that best suit a profile of cyclist, the Flandrien, the lifelong classicists. Strong, technical riders with an innate ability to read the race and choose the right moment to make a winning move.
These characteristics are perfectly suited to Wout Van Aert's profile, which makes the cobbled classics the most accessible monuments for the Jumbo-Visma rider. He came close to winning the Tour of Flanders in 2020, when the race was decided by centimetres in a close sprint between him and Mathieu Van der Poel. The same position that he achieved last year in Paris-Roubaix after failing to catch an imposing Dylan Van Baarle, having to settle for winning the sprint of the chasing group.
From there we move on to the Ardennes with the Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the race of the endless climbs with 4,400m of elevation gain. On paper, it is a race in which the light classicists like Julian Alaphilippe or Alejandro Valverde, the great dominator of this race in recent times, are more competitive, as is the case with Il Lombardia, which closes the season and also has a tremendously broken profile.
However, Wout Van Aert has several assets that make him a contender for victory. He has already proved to be tremendously competitive in very high mountain stages in the Tour de France. It is true that it is not the same because the pace after 10, 12 or 20 stages is not the same as those small riders are capable of in a one-day race. But Wout Van Aert has shown on too many occasions that he is strong enough to ride with the best riders when it comes to the climbs. In fact, he finished 3rd in Liège-Bastogne-Liège earlier this year.
For the time being, the priority for 2023 will be to try to win the cobbled classics and then aim for the World Championships in August. It remains to be seen which Grand Tours he will take part in to help his team-mates.
What he did make absolutely clear is that he does not plan to go for the general classification of a Grand Tour, as some circles were already suggesting after his tremendous Tour de France in which he led the race for practically the entire first week.