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Wout van Aert: I still don't know what my limits are

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) celebrates his Milan-San Remo victory (Image credit: Getty Images)

Wout van Aert admitted he is still to find his physical limits after following up on his Strade Bianche victory with success at Milan-San Remo but admitted he does feel pain despite making victory in the Via Roma looks so natural and predestined.

The 25-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider is only in his second season at WorldTour level but his natural poise and confidence help him push his limits. He admitted that perhaps only Grand Tours are out of his reach. 

"I think it's a super good thing that I don't know what my limits are. I'm 25 and it's really a pleasure to still discover what I'm able to do," Van Aert said in the post-race press conference.

"My dream is to have a career with lots of different wins, I'm on a good way and today is a special day winning my first Monument.

"Last year I won my first stage in the Tour de France, and I hope to have won a variety of different things by the end of my career, but as a Belgian guy, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are top of my list, and that's what I want to reach in the coming years."

He also has some very short-term goals, with further victory celebrations top of the list.

"I'm climbing quite well and time trialing so everything outside of Grand Tours is in my capabilities, so we'll see and I'll enjoy tonight," he quipped.

The way Van Aert went after Julian Alaphilippe after the Frenchman attacked on the Poggio, caught him on the descent and then beat him in the sprint made victory in one of cycling's Monuments look natural, almost easy. It was reassuring, though, to know even Van Aert suffers in the saddle.

"Of course I was far above my limit, Bike racing is never easy," he said. "Last week [at Strade Bianche], I had the same pain and so it's always about suffering."

"Nobody was on my wheel on the Poggio, so I had to keep going. I saw I wasn't losing space. Julian made a good gap and was really strong but I also tried to believe he was on the limit. The downhill is really technical but when I came back, then I knew I had as good chance."

Van Aert has made an impressive and complete recovery from his Tour de France crash, when a roadside barrier took a chunk out of his upper thigh muscle and hip. He worked hard in the gym during the winter, only for the COVID-19 pandemic to stop his full comeback and racing.

It's an incredible comeback story but Van Aerts' ambitions means her prefers to always look forward to the next opportunity rather than back to the difficulties of the past.

"Last week there was a big story about the comeback and blah, blah, blah. But I would like to look to the future," he said.

"I've proven myself a few times now, it was a hard period, it's good to be back too but I was already on a high level when the coronavirus hit, I worked hard this winter and I've already been back a few months now."

Victories at Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo would make most riders' career and allow them to ease up and celebrate. Van Aert raised a glass with his Jumbo-Visma teammates on the bus in San Remo.

He will also savour his success with his family in the next few days but will be back racing next week at the Critérium du Dauphiné as he prepares to ride the Tour de France and take on Team Ineos with Tom Dumoulin, Primož Roglič and Steven Kruijswijk.

Van Aert will use his talents to fulfill a domestique role at the Tour de France but clearly believes the men in yellow and black can finally topple Team Inoes.

"It would be really strange if I said I didn't believe in [Jumbo-Visma winning the Tour de France]. But to be honest I do believe it," Van Aert said.

"I saw in an altitude camp last week how the guys were working and today we heard on the radio that Primož won. We go to the Tour with high ambitions and the goal is to try and win it. For me it's really special to go with these guys and be part of a team with such ambitions."