Expert Philippe Gilbert on Mathieu van der Poel's potential to "Strive for Five" Cycling

Expert Philippe Gilbert on Mathieu van der Poel's potential to "Strive for Five"

Expert Philippe Gilbert on Mathieu van der Poel's potential to "Strive for Five"

Mathieu van der Poel notched his fifth Monument win at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, equalling Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian, now an analyst for Eurosport, shared his thoughts on Van der Poel's race and whether the Dutchman could achieve his much-coveted "strive for five" — winning all five Monuments.

"He was the top favorite. Winning is never easy when you have that label, but he won in a very impressive manner. Mathieu made good use of his team, which was supposedly his weak point, in this race. They were really present, which allowed him to wait for a long time, adopting a defensive racing strategy up to a certain point: in this case, the Koppenberg."

"Then he immediately broke away, so I'd say: ten out of ten. Perfectly ridden," Gilbert praises. Yet, the former rider was surprised by the tactics of Van der Poel's competitors. "I was surprised by Mads Pedersen. I don't understand why he would attack so early. I watched the race and saw several favorites go all out 120 kilometers from the finish. I immediately thought: it's over for them. Mathieu only had to respond twice, but even that didn't cost him much energy."

Matteo Jorgenson, among others, also put his eggs in one basket early. "I think it was also because of Mathieu himself. He's imposing, even with the power he can generate while seated," analyzes Phil. "They know he's that strong, so if they wait, they also can't follow. That's why they tried to anticipate, but it didn't really work out," he says with a hint of understatement.

Expert Philippe Gilbert on Mathieu van der Poel's potential to "Strive for Five"

'Strive for Five' for Van der Poel? "I have no doubts about Liège, but Lombardy is tougher"

Alright, Van der Poel now has three Tour of Flanders victories, one Paris-Roubaix, and one Milan-San Remo under his belt. Gilbert's record includes two Lombardy wins, and one each in Liège, Flanders, and Roubaix. Can Van der Poel achieve the 'strive for five'? "I don't really doubt his ability in Liège. In the right race situation, he can definitely win."

"The Tour of Lombardy's course is very challenging, so I'd say 'not now,'" Gilbert opines. "When I won there, it was a different, easier course. If it ever goes back to that, Mathieu certainly has a chance. In terms of finish locations, he might have a better shot in Bergamo than in Como, because there you have those cobblestones in the finale."

So far, only Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx, and Roger De Vlaeminck have managed to win all five Monuments. Gilbert is among the elite group of cyclists who have won all the major classics four times, along with Sean Kelly, Hennie Kuiper, Louison Bobet, Fred De Bruyne, and Germain Derycke.

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