Wout van Aert is entering unknown waters.
Having found himself in the form of his life since the return to racing last weekend, the Belgian is on a voyage of self-discovery after notching up two of the biggest victories in his career in the space of eight days.
After motoring away from a small group on the gravel slopes of Strade Bianche last weekend, the Jumbo-Visma superstar descended like a demon and outsprinted Julian Alaphilippe to take his first monument at Milano-Sanremo on Saturday.
What’s next for van Aert? Not even he knows the answer.
“It’s a very good thing that I don’t know myself, that I don’t know what my limits are,” van Aert said after winning on the Via Roma. “I am 25. It is a pleasure to discover what I am capable of.”
Having already forged his name in the muddy winters of cyclocross with three consecutive world titles, van Aert’s recent focus on the road has seen him winning Tour de France stages from uphill sprints, bettering time trial experts against the clock, and placing in the top-10 of cobbled monuments.
“I dream of winning many different races. This is my first monument. After I won a stage in the Tour last year, it’s hard to say what I’m aiming for. I can climb reasonably well, my sprint is good and I can time trial,” van Aert said.
“I will not win a grand tour … Maybe not,” he continued. “Being Belgian, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are of course at the top of my list.”
While van Aert isn’t totally ruling out his chances of stage race success in the future, he will be put to work in the Jumbo-Visma engine room at the Tour de France later this month. Having crashed heavily in the race’s time trial last year, van Aert’s Italian double this month proves all the more remarkable. Van Aert will return to La Grande Boucle August 29 as part of a bumper Jumbo-Visma squad intent on toppling team Ineos from their Tour perch.
“It would be really strange if I said I didn’t believe [that Jumbo-Visma can win the Tour],” van Aert said Saturday. “But to be honest I do believe it.”