Wout van Aert says he doesn’t yet know the limit of what he can achieve on the bike following his first Monument victory at Milan – San Remo 2020.
The Belgian beat Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) in a two-up sprint one week after winning Strade Bianche in Siena.
The 25-year-old says he kept believing he could catch Alaphilippe after the Frenchman made his move on the Poggio and that once he had caught up to him he knew he had a good chance of crossing the line first.
“Of course, I was far over my limit but last year it was quite the same to hold the wheel and be in the front group,” Van Aert says of tackling the Poggio. “Bike racing is never easy and last week I had the same pain, it’s always about suffering.
“Luckily there was nobody in my wheel, I just had to keep going and once I reached the top I wasn’t losing ground anymore and Julian [Alaphilippe] had a good gap and was really strong but somehow I tried to believe he was on the limit and once we were at the top everything else was my advantage, the downhill of course was very technical, but when I came back on the downhill I knew I had a good chance.”
He had already been hotly tipped coming into Milan – San Remo, and few will be surprised he followed up his Strade Bianche victory with another win. In Siena last week, the Belgian said we’re seeing the best Van Aert we ever have, and he says he likes the fact he hasn’t found his limit yet.
“I think it’s a super good thing that I dont know what my limits are. I’m 25 and it’s really a pleasure to still discover what I’m able to do,” Van Aert said. “My dream is to have a career with lots of different wins, I’m in a good way and today is a special day winning my first Monument.
“Last year I won my first stage in the Tour de France, and I hope to have won a variety of different things by the end of my career, but as a Belgian guy, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are top of my list, and that’s what I want to reach in the coming years.”
“I’m climbing quite well and time trialling so everything outside of Grand Tours is in my capabilities, so we’ll see and I’ll enjoy tonight.”
Van Aert is keen to put the 2019 Tour de France crash behind him for good now, waving away prods to wax lyrical about the comeback he’s made over the past 12 months.
“Last week we had a big story about the comeback and blah blah blah, but I would like to look to the future. I’ve proven myself a few times now, it was a hard period, it’s good to be back, I was already on a high level when the coronavirus hit, I worked hard this winter and I’ve already been back a few months now.”
Now he’s fulfilled his own personal ambitions at the races set aside for him as team leader, Van Aert will now turn to a domestique role for the team at the Tour de France, where Primož Roglič, Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk look set to make a very good go of breaking Ineos’ stranglehold over the French Grand Tour.
“It would be really strange if I said I didn’t believe in [Jumbo-Visma winning the Tour de France],” Van Aert said. “And to be honest I do believe it, I saw in an altitude camp last week how the guys were working and today we heard on the radio that Primož [Roglič] won, I think yesterday he forgot to win.
“We go to the Tour with high ambitions and the goal is to try and win it. For me it’s really special to go with these guys and be part of a team with such ambitions.”
Before that will be the Dauphiné, where Van Aert says he’ll be able to test his legs once more, even if there is little opportunity for personal glory given the parcours, and calibrate with the team ahead of the Tour.