Mathieu van der Poel revealed he would skip cyclocross season to race a rescheduled Classics calendar.
The news comes at the end of a week where van der Poel’s multi-year plan to balance mountain bike Olympics, road Classics and cyclocross ambitions were thrown into disarray by the IOC’s postponement of the 2020 Olympics.
Classics vs cyclocross
Before the IOC’s decision on the Tokyo Games, UCI’s plans to reschedule the Spring Classics already threw van der Poel’s cyclocross and road calendars into conflict. The Dutch phenom, and current cyclocross world champion, shared his race priorities in a joint interview with Tom Boonen on DHNet.be.
“I still hope to race the classics this year, I am ready to give them priority over the next cyclocross season,” said van der Poel. As for when they happen, the Dutch acknowledge it will be tough, adding “I wouldn’t want to be the one to reprogram them.”
For now, the Dutch rider is adapting to quarantine.
“I am used to this regime,” he van der Poel said, comparing his normal training schedule to the restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, adding “In fact, the everyday life of a cyclist is a bit like living in quarantine.” The lack of racing is a more difficult adjustment. “What I miss the most are the goals and the races.”
Still, van der Poel is finding a positive side to the forced break from racing. “For the past few years, I have been going from objective to objective. This forced stop is an opportunity to breathe a little mentally.”
Grand Tour vs. Olympics: A balancing act thrown off-kilter
A potential conflict between rescheduled Spring Classics and cyclocross isn’t the only calendar conflict the multi-talented van der Poel suddenly faces. A 2021 Olympics could disrupt his Grand Tour aspirations.
The Dutch star has spent years carefully balancing cyclocross, Olympic mountain biking aspirations and an increasingly important career on the road.
The postponement of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics, announced earlier this week by the International Olympic Committee, throws a major wrench into those plans. While van der Poel acknowledges that postponing the Olympics is the right move, he expressed frustration that it has undone years of planning.
“It is a very unfortunate but understandable decision, global health comes first,” van der Poel told Wielerflits.be after news of the IOC’s decision. “On the other hand, I am left with a bad feeling. Four years ago we drew up a plan for these Games and that is now spoiled.”
“It is not easy mentally if you have been working on this for four years,” van der Poel said of the change, adding “but that is the case for everyone who has worked towards a goal in this period in the long term.”
Looking to the future, and a potential 2021 Olympic Games, van der Poel is conflicted about when he where on the calendar a rescheduled Tokyo games would fit. “I myself hope for the same period so that I can finish the Classics campaign first, as was planned now,” van der Poel said. “The only drawback is that I might have to choose between the Olympics and a Grand Tour.”
For now, the Dutch star will keep mountain biking in the hopes of a delayed World Cup XCO season. “We’ll see the rest later,” he concluded.