Mathieu van der Poel back on the bike, hooray! After a deception in the Tour de France, in which he was unable to break any pots and even dropped out in the eleventh stage, he is now preparing for the autumn. Two symbolic victories in the late round criteriums are of course not a sign that form is back, but they are important first steps. In the leader’s jersey visited him for a chat at the criterium in Herentals.
His retirement in the biggest game of the year has loosened up a few things at Van der Poel. After a short winter due to a persistent back injury, he prepared himself in a ‘race against the clock’ for Milan-Sanremo, where he took the podium. Not much later he won the Tour of Flanders. Everything seemed good, but in the Amstel Gold Race he already gave a little less feeling which was confirmed with a ninth place in Paris-Roubaix. Instead of resting, he went to the Giro, where he took pink on the first day.
Van der Poel calls the task in Tour ‘an enormous learning moment’
He finished that Giro, he even took a number of podium places, after which he immediately started preparing for the Tour de France. That’s where the candle went out. ‘I was already feeling a bit tired before the Tour de France’, explains MvdP out to this website. “But then you still have the hope that you will make it through the Tour, but I was still tired. That was a great pity, but that assignment was a huge learning moment.’
In the little two weeks between his retirement in the Tour de France and the late tour criteria, Mathieu wanted to put everything in order. ‘I’ve done very little since then. I rested and enjoyed the good weather a bit. Mostly I’ve tried to change my mind a bit, that’s actually what I’ve been doing these days.’
Giro d’Italia offered ‘unique opportunity’ on pink
On the basis of that reflection, Van der Poel continues to talk about his vision of the full competition program: ‘It was all very close together. The Tour was disappointing, but I am very happy that I went to the Giro d’Italia. It was a unique opportunity for the pink leader’s jersey and I did achieve it.’
Then we can now look to the future, but not before we have cast a glance at Wout van Aert. Because where the Belgian from Jumbo-Visma drove the stones out of the street in the Tour and took the green jersey, Van der Poel was already at home. Has Van Aert stirred something up in his rival’s head? ‘I don’t really have the ambition to go green. It’s never even crossed my mind to be honest. It won’t really be my goal in the near future.’
Interview: Maxime Caeyman
Text: Gabriel Melching ([email protected])