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Tom Boonen calls out Wout van Aert for missing a monument in 2022: ‘It’s all that matters’

The former pro says that Remco Evenepoel is no longer riding in the shadow of Van Aert after his super 2022.

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Wout van Aert looks set to end the 2022 season as the second-ranked rider in the men’s peloton, but Belgian former pro Tom Boonen believes his compatriot could have done more.

Van Aert claimed nine victories over the season, including three stages of the Tour de France and its points classification, two stages of the Critérium du Dauphiné, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and the E3 Saxo Bank Classic.

However, Boonen says that there is one glaring omission from Van Aert’s 2022 palmarès that makes it fall short of perfection: winning a monument.

Van Aert took podium places at Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and finished eighth at Milan-San Remo, but was forced to miss the Tour of Flanders when he was in peak shape after catching COVID just days before the race.

“I hear he couldn’t have done better this year, but I don’t agree with that,” Boonen told Het Laatste Nieuws. “The only thing missing this year is a monument, they say. But that’s also all that matters. A rider of his level is racing to win those races.

“It’s nice that you are called the best rider in the world for months, but that’s not the point. Wout has to win classics. Ask him himself: he will also say that that is what he wants. At the same time, I don’t want to be too strict,” he said. “Wout was having a very nice spring and he had the bad luck that he dropped out due to corona at a crucial moment, just before the Tour of Flanders. The result was hard: once again lost a chance to win De Ronde or Roubaix.”

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Van Aert does already have one monument on his glistening palmarès after winning the 2020 Milan-San Remo. However, he’s fallen just short at his most favored of classics races, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Boonen was one of the most prolific classics riders of his generation and he took victory at Flanders three times and Roubaix on four occasions, winning both in the same season twice. He believes that Van Aert will take a cobbled monument win in his career, but he says that time is running out for him to really make his mark on those races.

“The years are ticking,” Boonen said. “I am convinced that he will still succeed, but will he win the Ronde three times and Roubaix four times? Champions race for those kinds of records.”

Boonen’s comments come in the build-up to the Kristallen Fiets (Crystal Bicycle in English) awards Tuesday evening. The award, which was created by Het Laatste Nieuws in 1992, is given to the rider deemed to be the best Belgian of the year.

Van Aert has won the award the last two years, but he faces some stiff competition from Remco Evenepoel, who won the Vuelta a España and the worlds road race both in dominating fashion. Evenepoel won the Kristallen Fiets in his debut pro season in 2019, though Van Aert spent much of the year out of action after suffering severe lacerations to his leg in a crash at the Tour de France.

Until this year, Van Aert has been seen as the leading Belgian in the pro pack and that was shown with the national team going all-in with the 28-year-old at the worlds in Flanders in 2021. However, Boonen says that this year sees Evenepoel put on par with his older compatriot.

“Becoming world champion won’t get any easier after this year. Evenepoel has set a serious precedent,” said Boonen. “Last year you had the debacle in Leuven and the quarrel that followed, but at that time Remco was not really a competitor of Wout. He hadn’t been anywhere until this year. There was a clear ranking: Wout was the leader and Remco was still the domestique. But in 2022 everything will have changed.”