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Mathieu van der Poel all set to start cyclocross season

Dutch phenom talks up cyclocross-XCO-Tour triple for 2021

Photo by: Sirotti.it

Mathieu van der Poel is rested and ready for his return to cyclocross racing this weekend. While he’s yet to start his first race, his eyes are already on next summer’s lofty goals.

Showdown with van Aert will have to wait

The Dutch superstar is on the start list for both Saturday’s Scheldecross X20 Trofee Antwerpen and Sunday’s Telenet Superprestige Gavere. This weekend will mark van der Poel’s first race since ending his season unceremoniously in a crash at Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne.

Wout van Aert, MvdP’s perennial rival is not scheduled to start either race. Van Aert started his season with the Tabor World Cup in the Czech Republic, where he fought hard to find his way to the podium. In an interview with Dutch website Wielerflits.nl, van der Poel cast a slight bit of shade on his rival’s decision to return to racing so soon after the delayed road season.

“I can’t judge Van Aert but I wanted to take a little more time and build in a longer rest period,” van der Poel said.  “Two more weeks of waiting would have been even better, but you have to start somewhere, and you still need a few races to get a good feeling.”

With more time off, van der Poel said his body is ready, even if his skills on the cross bike might not be as sharp.

“I think I’m a little better prepared now than I was a year ago but in terms of the technical side, I haven’t done much yet – I’ve only trained on the ‘cross bike three times.”

While he might not be 100 per cent, the Dutch rider isn’t feeling the pressure to perform. In fact, he used the interview to state his intentions to win 2021 cyclocross world championships. The rainbow jersey, he said, is his only objective.

“That’s the only thing. I don’t have any rankings to defend so outside of the Worlds, nothing is necessary. But I start every ‘cross to win. Without pressure,” van der Poel shared. The narrowed focus, in contrast to his utter domination across the board in prior years, is less a result of lack of enthusiasm as of a change in focus.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I once set goals in cyclo-cross and I achieved them all. That means the pressure is gone. Winter used to be the season in which I had to prove myself but now my goals are in the summer,” MvdP explained. “That doesn’t mean I’ll be less enthusiastic or less sharp at the start, though.”

Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert butted heads during the road season, never more dramatically than at Tour of Flanders. Photo: Sirotti.it

Still aiming for Tour-Olympic double (and adding CX Worlds just because )

Mathieu van der Poel’s objective to win 2021 cyclocross worlds adds another major competition to his already monumental calendar goals. The Dutch rider has already stated he plans to make an unlikely, and logistically difficult Tour de France – Olympic cross country double. That, it appears, is on top of his cyclocross objectives.

“I intend to make the combination,” van der Poel confirmed. “The problem is that I don’t have a choice. Yes, I assume I’ll start the Tour with the goal of reaching Paris. I have no intention of leaving early, but I realize it’s not an ideal combination.”

The difficulty is the lack of time between the Tour, in Europe, and the Olypic XCO race on the other side of the globe. Just eight days separate when the Tour de France concludes on July 18 and when the Men’s XCO start on July 26. Still, the Dutch rider has high hopes for both.

“My goal is to win a stage at the Tour,” van der Poel says, before adding that he’s already aiming higher. “The green jersey must be somewhere in the back of our minds. Imagine that suddenly there’s an opportunity for it… But it’s certainly not one of my planned goals.”

Mathieu van der Poel flying high at the World Cup in 2019. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

He’ll have to balance that with the World Cup cross country appearances on the mountain bike. He admits he’ll need to be sharp if he intends to challenge Nino Schurter in Tokyo.

“There’s also a preliminary plan to ride two or three mountain-bike World Cups to grab some points. It took a long time to reach the top of mountain biking, but now that the whole calendar disappeared, I feel like I lost a year. It has become my favourite discipline and it’s also the toughest of the three.”