Philippe Gilbert has spent much of his career hunting all the monuments of cycling and trying to have a trophy of each at home. Although he was not successful, he sees potential in Tadej Pogacar as the first rider in decades to achieve this.
“Winning five different Monuments is not an easy target. It takes a lot of energy, a lot of strength because they are very different races,” Gilbert told Eurosport. “Sanremo is almost made for sprinters or puncheurs, you have Flanders and Roubaix for strong and heavy guys, and the other two, Liége and Lombardia, for light riders. It is not easy to compete on the highest level at those five races.”
Gilbert himself was close to achieving this, eventually retiring with four monuments to his name, as Milano-Sanremo always eluded him. Only three riders in history have been able to take all five and Pogacar could be number four according to the Belgian legend.
“I think Pogacar maybe can be one to win all five, but I still have a hesitation about Roubaix," he worries. "Not only about his capacity but more about the risk you have to take to win Roubaix. As a Grand Tour contender, I don’t know if he wants to risk everything for Roubaix. So question mark on that one.”
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For a rider of the caliber of the Slovenian it is not a much considered decision at the time being to put all coins on Paris-Roubaix, seeing that the Grand Tours lie ahead, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège is also closely after the French classic.
However, as displayed by this year's start to the season, the UAE Team Emirates rider is a fan of switching up his plans, and he has shown to be capable of riding at a high level in the flat cobblestones last year at the Tour de France. Furthermore, last season's performance at the Tour des Flandres - which he will try to win this spring - may serve as a launch board for another goal.
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However there is a lot of risk associated with the 'Hell of the North'. “Racing is so focused on one part of the season and his is obviously the Tour de France,” Adam Blythe argued. “So everything is around that and I think for Pogacar going to Paris-Roubaix is such a gamble – crashing, not crashing. Imagine dedicating his early part of the season to Roubaix and then something happening that could also affect his Tour de France if he crashed badly."
“So I think yes, he can win Paris-Roubaix in future, but I guess if he can win the Tour de France again, he's got to do that. So that'll be the big focus. I think once he's accepted what he wants to do at the Tour de France and says, 'right I’m going to try and win some Classics and Monuments’ then I think the focus will change. I think he can do it and win all five, but not for a few years yet," Blythe explained.