Mathieu van der Poel has now achieved a rare career achievement in that he has managed to finish in the top-10 of all of cycling's Monument Classics, in the space of just 14 months.
While it is actually 29 months between his first top 10 and his most recent, but the consecutive top 10s have been over 14 months, making his the second fastest to this feat. Eddy Merckx did it faster from his first Monument participation.
The five Monuments of cycling are Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia, with the first four happening in Spring and the latter in the midst of Autumn.
Van der Poel's first top-10 in a Monument was at the Tour of Flanders in April 2019 where he came fourth, but it was a 10th place finish in the rescheduled Il Lombardia, in August 2020 that started the record.
The time it took Van der Poel may have been shorter due to the fact that lots of races were pushed close together due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, but sixth place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège came soon after in October.
He added a win at the Tour of Flanders to the list later that month, but he still required two other race top-10s after failing to finish above 14th in his Milan-San Remo debut, while Paris-Roubaix was cancelled in 2020.
This year saw the Milan-San Remo top-10 come for Van Der Poel, with a strong fifth place at La Classicissima in late March.
Paris-Roubaix, which was postponed from April to October 3, 2021came with torrid weather conditions, but that did not matter for Van der Poel who managed to pull off a resolute third place completing the set.
Merckx set the record time for top-10s in the Monuments back in 1967, taking just 13 months from his Milan-San Remo victory on debut in March 1966, through to his eighth place in Paris-Roubaix the following April.
This record was from Merckx's first Monument participation which saw him win at Milan-San Remo. Van der Poel's first Monument was a fourth place at the Tour of Flanders, but he did not manage a top 10 in his next Monument ride.
Only two riders have managed this since 1990 with Rolf Sørensen, who won both Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Tour of Flanders, and Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal), who has won all but one of the Monuments.
Sørensen's achievement started in 1986 at Milan-San Remo with the final top-10 coming 11 years later at Paris-Roubaix. Gilbert also started with Milan-San Remo and ended with Paris-Roubaix but took him between 2005 and 2019.
Gilbert is still hunting for the Milan-San Remo win with his 'Strive For Five' campaign, but he is 39-years-old now and his form over the last two years has, sadly, dropped away from his 2019 ability.
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