UCI WorldTour: Pogačar - Van der Poel, a battle of the titans going down in history

A rainbow show on the cobbles

Tadej Pogačar and Mathieu van der Poel have now won six Monuments races each following another spectacular Classics campaign.

The spring Classics season is often the scene of spectacular battles between some of the current top names in the sport. This year, Slovenia’s Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Dutch Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) were the brightest of them all, displaying their talents week in and week out on the UCI WorldTour roads, culminating in both finishing on the podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last Sunday.

The first part of the season has been eventful, with many riders battling their way to the front positions in the various one-day races. New Zealand’s Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) kicked things off in Australia. Team Visma|Lease a Bike found ways to shine despite Wout van Aert’s injuries. And Jasper Philipsen (BEL) and Mads Pedersen (DEN) showed that they can win more than sprint finishes. But when it comes to the Monuments, the most prestigious of the one-day races, Van der Poel and Pogačar are the real leaders of the men’s peloton.

Winners of 2024 UCI WorldTour one-day races held to date:

  • Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (AUS): Laurence Pithie (NZL – Groupama-FDJ)

  • Omloop Nieuwsblad (BEL): Jan Tratnik (SLO – Team Visma|Lease a Bike)

  • Strade Bianche (ITA): Tadej Pogačar (SLO – UAE Team Emirates)

  • Milano-Sanremo (ITA): Jasper Philipsen (BEL – Alpecin-Deceuninck)

  • Classic Brugge-De Panne (BEL): Jasper Philipsen (BEL – Alpecin-Deceuninck)

  • E3 Saxo Classic (BEL): Mathieu van der Poel (NED – Alpecin-Deceuninck)

  • Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields (BEL): Mads Pedersen (DEN – Lidl-Trek)

  • Dwars door Vlaanderen - À travers la Flandre (BEL): Matteo Jorgenson (USA – Team Visma|Lease a Bike)

  • Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour of Flanders (BEL): Mathieu van der Poel (NED - Alpecin-Deceuninck)

  • Paris-Roubaix (FRA): Mathieu van der Poel (NED - Alpecin-Deceuninck)

  • Amstel Gold Race (NED): Tom Pidcock (GBR – Ineos Grenadiers)

  • La Flèche Wallonne (BEL): Stephen Williams (GBR – Israel-Premier Tech)

  • Liège-Bastogne-Liège (BEL): Tadej Pogačar (SLO – UAE Team Emirates)

A rainbow show on the cobbles

Between them, the Dutch and Slovenian stars have won seven of the nine Monuments raced since the beginning of 2023. The only exceptions were Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2023, where Belgian Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) delivered a masterclass performance in the absence of Van der Poel and Pogačar, and Milano-Sanremo in 2024, where the Dutch rider focused on diminishing the Slovenian’s attacks in order to help Philipsen to a victorious sprint on the Via Roma.

After offering the Italian Classic to his teammate and friend, Van der Poel reclaimed the Ronde van Vlaanderen – Tour of Flanders - his third Ronde victory, a record he shares with only six other cycling legends – thanks to a stunning 54km solo ride to Oudenaarde. A week later, he set off from even further back - 60km to the finish! - to win Roubaix for the second successive year. No rider has managed to retain the victory in the André-Pétrieux velodrome since Belgian Tom Boonen’s wins in 2007 and 2008.

A closer look at cycling’s history shows that Van der Poel is the 11th rider to win the Ronde and the Hell of the North in the same year… But only the second in history to do so wearing the rainbow jersey, 62 years after Rik Van Looy’s (BEL) iconic achievements.

Success in Liège paves way for “Pogi’s” legacy

“Mathieu picks his races and performs extraordinarily well”, Pogačar praised just ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Slovenian champ has also adapted his racing calendar this season, as he prepares for a first participation in the Giro d’Italia. He impressed at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and again showed his class in the one-day races: victory at Strade Bianche (after he dropped all his rivals with more than 80km to go), third at Sanremo and winner at Liège after 34km solo.

He had already won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2021, but this race holds a special place in his heart: “It’s the first Monument I ever raced, where everything started”, and he was especially determined to claim it back, on the second anniversary of the passing of his partner’s mother (he withdrew from the event on that occasion in 2022, and crashed out of the race last year).

With a sixth victory in a Monument (three Il Lombardia and one Ronde van Vlaanderen – Tour of Flanders in addition to his two victories at Liège), Pogačar joins Van der Poel in the top 10 list of riders with most wins in the greatest Classics races of the season. With their recent pace, third place on the podium, occupied by three riders tied on nine wins apiece - Costante Girardengo (ITA), Fausto Coppi (ITA) and Sean Kelly (IRL), edged out only by Belgians Eddy Merckx (19) and Roger De Vlaeminck (11) - seems achievable.

And an even bigger dream animates Pogačar, Van der Poel and all their fans: to win all five Monuments. Only three riders have done so to date: Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy and Roger De Vlaeminck.