De Vlaeminck, one of only three riders to have claimed all five of the monuments, believes van der Poel to be the only active rider with the skillset to scoop the full set of iconic races. The only other riders in history to have achieved the feat are Eddy Merckx, and Rik van Looy.
“I think Van der Poel is also the only rider who can win all five monuments, just like me,” De Vlaeminck said this weekend.
At present, the only active rider close to completing the set of monuments is Philippe Gilbert. Having won Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and placing first two times at Il Lombardia, Gilbert needs to win on the Via Roma at Milano-Sanremo to achieve the feat.
However, for De Vlaeminck, it’s Dutch wunderkind van der Poel most likely to match his set of monument victories. “He is my favorite for all races. He is a bit like me. He is versatile,” De Vlaeminck said.
Just as Gilbert was denied his shot at Milano-Sanremo this spring as coronavirus shut down the early season cycling calendar, van der Poel also missed out on his debut at Paris-Roubaix. There are still hopes that both races will be re-scheduled in the fall.
Whether Roubaix returns later this year or not, De Vlaeminck thinks van der Poel has the motor and skills to challenge his record four victories on the pavé, a tally only matched by Tom Boonen.
“He [van der Poel] will definitely win Paris-Roubaix three or four times and maybe five times. I really want to give him that,” De Vlaeminck told Sporza. “He can do everything: he talks well, he takes care of himself, he trains well… He has class.”
De Vlaeminck sees fellow Belgian Wout van Aert as van der Poel’s only challenger. The pair share a cyclocross background, having gone-head-to-head for the top of ‘cross podiums through past years. Both had been scheduled to roll out of Compiègne to start the ‘Hell of the North’ this weekend.
“The opposition is also less strong now for Van der Poel,” De Vlaeminck said. “Only Wout van Aert. He will also win about three times in Roubaix. Those boys are now 25 so I hope I can still experience the fifth cobblestone of Van der Poel.”
Van der Poel and van Aert share De Vlaeminck’s background in racing ‘cross through winter. De Vlaeminck cited having the engine to repeatedly attack on a mix of terrain as vital for success at Roubaix.
“Why that course suited me so well? I am a cyclocross rider,” De Vlaeminck said. “And after a course of 250 kilometers, I could still jump 20 times.”