Home > MTB

Mathieu van der Poel leaves Tour de France for Tokyo

Dutch phenom refocuses on mountain bikes after six days in yellow jersey

Photo by: Sirotti

After a stunning Tour de France debut, Mathieu van der Poel is turning his focus towards Tokyo. The Dutch star dropped out of the Grand Tour on Sunday, one day after losing the yellow jersey to Tadej Pogačar.

Van der Pol will spend the next three weeks preparing for the Olympic mountain bike race, in which he remains one of the favourites to take gold. That takes place July 26 and 27 in Japan.

Mathieu van der Poel took yellow in an emotional Stage 2 victory. Photo: Sirotti

While abbreviated, van der Poel’s Tour de France debut was wildly successful. Before the race had even started, his Alpecin-Fenix team made headlines for their retro-themed jerseys, a tribute to van der Poel’s late grandfather, the iconic Raymond Poulidor.

On Stage 2, van der Poel captured his first yellow leader’s jersey with a stunning victory on the Mûr-de-Bretagne. An emotional victory, the Dutch rider gestured skyward in another tribute to his grandfather.

Van der Poel defended his lead for six days, fighting to hold off Pogačar though Wednesday’s time trial, before losing his lead in the overall on Sunday.

With six days in yellow and one stage win, it’s an incredible effort for the Dutchman, riding in his first Grand Tour.

2021 XCO World Cup Nove Mesto van der Poel
Mathieu Van Der Poel was put in the rare position of being on the back foot in Nove Mesto. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool.

Van der Poel will now turn his attention off-road. He has three weeks before the Olympic mountain bike race in Tokyo.

After missing all of the 2020 World Cup season, the Alpecin-Fenix rider’s return to XCO was a little rockier than his impressive 2019 season. While he did land two Short Track XCC wins in two races, van der Poel couldn’t find the podium’s top step in the Olympic distance events.

In Albstadt, Germany, van der Poel appeared to struggle with the heat, finishing seventh. Not bad for a first XCO in over a year, but not up to MvdP’s lofty standards.

A week later in Nove Mesto, van der Poel ran headfirst into the off-road arrival of Tom Pidcock. MvdP out-kicked Pidcock to win a thrilling spring in the XCC. But, after dueling with Ineos’ lone mountain biker in the early laps of the full-distance XCO, van der Poel faded. He would eventually finish second, but a full minute behind his British rival.

Still, van der Pol remains one of the favourites going into Tokyo. He’ll face returning Olympic champion Nino Schurter, Pidcock, and current World Cup leader Mathias Flueckiger, among others.