With “stress and nerves” in the body, Mathieu van der Poel had looked at the last 30 kilometers of the World Cup in Imola at home.
“ I‘m usually more nervous when I watch the course than when I’m in it myself,” explains the Dutch champion. “I think Julian Alaphilippe is one of the most beautiful world champions cycling can imagine. I give him a lot of it, too. He‘s someone we always see and race along. He will be a worthy bearer.”
Could Van der Poel have won himself? “I don’t think so. When you see how difficult that last climb was and what kind of riders came up there, I don‘t think I made a mistake of judgment.”
The decision not to travel to Imola was taken during Tirreno-Adriatico, where Van der Poel was heavily pressed on the facts especially in mountainous rides.
“ It was a difficult round, a lot of uphill. And I am not the best uphill,” said Van der Poel. “The Tirreno was certainly not bad, the ride I won was also a tricky one. I was satisfied with that. I think I’m where I‘m supposed to be.”
Corona put stripe through his spring
Instead of the difficult World Championships, Van der Poel opted for an altitude internship in Livigno, the plastering place of Annemiek van Vleuten, among others, to prepare himself for the races that are better suited to him. We are talking about the Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. The first two he wrote to his name last year, the other two races he never drove before.
Last winter, Van der Poel was unapproachable in the field. He thought he could extend that form to the spring classics. Just before Omloop He Volk, however, he was felled by the flu. Fortunately no corona, but that virus would make a line a little later through cycling spring.
‘Could have planned a different retrospect‘
“ Some riders have handled it better than others”, says Van der Poel. “With me it is certainly not the case that I have done too little. Rather, perhaps. That’s how I‘ve always been. But I do need competition and that’s a little bit gone.”
If he was allowed to do it again, then what? “I would certainly have done it differently”, he answers with a big smile. “Then I would have taken a little more rest at first. We didn‘t know at the beginning of that period how long it would last. You’re trying to keep your shape a little. But in the end, it was just a very long period without a competition. If I had known that, I could have planned it a little differently.”
A victory in a great classic would still give his season the necessary shine. Van der Poel doesn‘t have many chances.
“ It’s only four races for me after the BinckBank Tour,” says Van der Poel. He refers to the Brabantse Pijl, the Amstel Gold Race (races he won last year), Paris Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. “If I can choose, I prefer to win a monument (Roubaix or Flanders). That will be the goal of a lot of riders, but we will try it.”
Watch the complete interview with Mathieu van der Poel on the eve of the BinckBank Tour.