Mathieu van der Poel’s mountain biking career will no longer end with the Tokyo Olympics.
The 25-year-old Dutch phenom recently shared that he has chosen to continue racing cross country longer than originally planned. Previously, Van der Poel’s roadmap had him leaving the dirt behind for a career on the road following his appearance at the 2020 Olympic Games.
With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to summer 2021, that plan has changed.
In an interview with WielerFlits.nl, the Dutch rider outlined the basics of his ambitions going forward. His goals, which would be most easily summarized as “win everything,” include Grand Tour appearances, world championship titles in multiple disciplines and now the 2024 Olympics.
Targetting Paris Olympic Games means more time to “enjoy” mountain biking
When asked if fans could look forward to seeing him racing XCO at the Paris Olympics in 2024, van der Poel was positive. “That’s what we discussed and that’s certainly something that I would want. I really enjoy this sport.”
The extra years racing off-road will give him more time to try win a world title in cross country before focusing on the road. It also allows him to try his hand at racing Grand Tour’s on the road while still pursuing his Olympic XCO ambitions.
“Normally the focus would have been mostly on the Grand Tour, especially considering the team and sponsors we have,” van der Poel answered when asked what made him decide to keep going with XC. “But now we could, let’s say, for 2-3 years try to ride the Grand Tour. Then I can try a few, and then make the switch to mtb.”
In a statement that could only come from van der Poel, the Dutch rider added, “Inbetween, you could earn a few world championships.”
The balancing act will continue
Van der Poel isn’t giving up mountain biking, but he still has lofty ambitions on the road. It’s extremely rare for a rider to successfully pursue multiple disciplines, let alone do so with the dominance the Dutch rider has. Van der Poel told WielerFlits this freedom is not something he has plans on stopping any time soon.
“The unique thing that I do is something I don’t want to easily give up,” van der Poel said. “I want to try keep going for as long as I can.”
Van der Poel has spent the last several years delicately balancing cyclocross, road and mountain biking. It appears this will not end anytime soon.
The Dutch rider’s multi-discipline dominance is not unprecedented, though. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot has found success mixing road and mountain bikes, though even she has narrowed her focus in recent years. Marianne Vos has found much success mixing cyclocross and road racing. Even Peter Sagan opted to race the XCO event at the 2016 Olympics instead of contesting the hilly Rio road race.
Re-written 2020 calendar leads to change
The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 are surely part of van der Poel’s reason for remaining in mountain biking longer than planned. His desire to win the XCO world championships also likely played a decisive role.
To balance his many ambitions, van der Poel has had to be strategic and selective about which events he attends. In 2019, he chose to skip the XCO world championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que. in favour of road world championships in the U.K. At the time, his team reported that the less-technical course for 2020 XCO worlds better suited his strengths than the notoriously difficult MSA venue.
2020 XCO world championships were originally scheduled to be held in Albstadt, Germany. That event has since been cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This leaves van der Poel searching for a new venue, and new opening in his busy calendar, to pursue his ambition to add XCO world championships stripes to his multiple cyclocross world titles.