Superstar pair Van der Poel and Van Aert have taken the cycling world by storm in the last few seasons, dominating races across multiple disciplines.
But to perform at the highest level, both in cyclocross and on the road, the two riders have to maintain form year-round, raising questions about the longevity of their current programmes.
Gilbert, a five-time Monument winner, has shared his thoughts on how the ultra-intense training may affect Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
Speaking during the Lotto-Soudal training camp in Spain, reported by Cycling News and Naszosie.pl, Gilbert said: “I do not know if it is possible to maintain such intensity and lifestyle for a long time, it is mentally very demanding.”
Gilbert, whose pro career has spanned 18 years, added: “They have no life except cycling. I don’t know if they’ll be able to race that long.
“It may be that they will have short but successful careers, or they may have to choose between once discipline or the other.
“It’s not easy to race and train for 365 days a year.”
Dutchman Van der Poel and his Belgian rival Van Aert are both coming to the conclusion of their winter cyclocross campaign, where they have been the dominant riders once again.
The duo finished their road season in October, after Van der Poel took the Tour of Flanders title in a two-up sprint against Van Aert, and went straight into preparation for cyclocross. They are also expected to start their 2021 road seasons in the coming weeks and months, with Van der Poel expected to race the UAE Tour in early February, while Van Aert is entering the season slightly later, at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic on March 26.
Van der Poel also competes in mountain bike races at the highest level.
Van Aert has previously said he “wonders what he’s doing to himself” with his hectic racing schedule, but says the racing year round keeps him on his toes.