There’s been a major last minute change to Mathieu van der Poel’s busy summer race schedule. The Dutch phenom will now be skipping the mountain bike test event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Van der Poel’s decision comes days after his spectacular implosion at the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire, G.B. The Dutch rider had been riding in a select lead group with half a lap to go when he suddenly lost all momentum.

“I don’t know what happened. I had no strength anymore in my legs,” van der Poel said in a post-race press release from his Corendon-Circus team. The falter in fitness came just 13 km from the finish line. “I don’t think that I made any mistakes today. I was in the right group but the tank was just empty. That’s not happened before but this is also the first time that I’ve raced this distance in the rain. It was raining all day, it was very cold and it was a very hard race.”

Mathieu van der Poel racing in the jersey of European Champion at 2019 Val di Sole World Cup in August. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content pool

Following the incredibly difficult road worlds event, the star rider and his Corendon-Circus team made the decision to skip the test event at Izu, Shizuoka. The team’s announcement of its riders schedule change cited fatigue and jet lag as reasons why van der Poel would skip Japan.

“In this way, we avoid additional burden for Mathieu with another race on a different continent and obviously another jetlag,” the Corendon-Circus statement read.

Van der Poel had earlier cited participating in the test event and road worlds as the reason he would not race this years mountain bike world championships. After winning his first World Cup XCO, van der Poel decided to skip Mont-Sainte-Anne worlds and Snowshoe, W.Va World Cup finals. At the time, the Dutch rider had been leading the World Cup overall standings.

mathieu van der Poel
Mathieu van der Poel celebrates his first World Cup XCO win at Nove Mesto in Czech Republic in May. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Instead, van der Poel said at the time, he wanted to ride the Tokyo test event to best prepare for next years Olympic Games. Despite much success on the road this year, including a spectacular win at Amstel Gold race, the young rider maintains his focus is still on mountain bikes. He has been clear that his objective is winning an Olympic medal in mountain biking. After the 2020 Games, he will decide the future direction of his career.

While van der Peol isn’t racing in Japan, he’s also not quite done racing. He will start the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro in Germany on Thursday with his Corendon-Cirucus teammates. Then likely some rest. He’ll then be picking up the World Cup cyclocross series as it returns to Europe.

Nino Schurter has already arrived in Tokyo for the test event. The Swiss world champion who is expected to be van der Poel’s main rival at next years Olympics.

Van der Poel wouldn’t have been the only athlete making an inter-continental journey to make it to Japan. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot landed in Tokyo barely a week after winning her second world championship title in a month.

Haley Smith, Peter Disera, Catharine Pendrel all made the journey straight from racing the Epic Israel. The Canadians were in the Mediterranean hunting UCI points, stealing podiums and stage wins along the way. Sandra Walter is also headed to Tokyo from Israel but with an added stop at home in Coquitlam before getting a last minute invite to the test event. Leandré Bouchard, already a 2016 Olympian, arrived in at the Izu, Shizuoka course at the end of last week.

The Tokyo mountain bike test event takes place this Sunday, 6 Oct.

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