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Van der Poel finds a way to earn win for team despite broken bars

Foiled by mechanical, Dutch phenom works for Merlier at Le Samyn

Le Samyn van der Poel broken bars Photo by: Sirotti.it

Mathieu van der Poel always finds a way to win, even with broken bars. While the Dutch phenom wasn’t first across the line at Le Samyn on Tuesday, he still played a major role in making sure his Alpecin Fenix team ended its day victorious.

Coming into the finale, van der Poel was well positioned, as he always seems to be, to contest a sprint. With 15 km to go, though, MvdP’s handlebars snapped. while riding a long section of rough cobbled section at Rue de Belle Vue. The Alpecin Fenix rider was on the attack, with Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Florian Sénèchal.

“I was still very good myself,” van der Poel told Belgian media, adding “but I couldn’t put in any more force because my handlebars broke on that long cobblestone section.”

Le Samyn van der Poel
Mathieu van der Poel on his light blue Canyon Aeroad at 2021 Le Samyn, before disaster struck. Photo: Sirotti.it

With little time remaining in the race, van der Poel acted quickly to give his team a chance at the win. He radioed the team car, saying he would ride for Tim Merlier. With his right shifter dangling from what remained of his handlebars, van der Poel set pace for the group and chased down any attacks, neutralizing the peloton so Merlier could sprint.

“I did everything I could to paralyze the group and I am very happy that Tim finishes it.”

Van der Poel crossed the line 16 seconds behind his teammate, down in 37th.

Le Samyn Tim Merlier
Tim Merlier celebrates another Alpecin Fenix win, though not with the usual rider on top of the podium. Photo: Sirotti
Focused on Strade Bianche

Van der Poel was quick to put the excitement of broken bars in the rear view and look forward to Saturday’s Strade Bianche. The Dutch star is optimistic about the Classic, which will be the latest round of his rivalry with Wout van Aert.

“The shape is good. Especially compared to last year, when I went to the Strade Bianche, the difference is very big,” says van der Poel. “Especially that I am fresher, and I have also been able to participate in the cross shape. That also helps.”

While rain is in the forecast, van der Poel is hoping for sun. Not for the reasons you might think, though.

“Strade is a bit more technical when dry because it is loose gravel then. I therefore prefer it to be dry and sunny.”