'I think it would be quite cool if it rains': Mathieu van der Poel ready to take on the challenge at debut Paris-Roubaix

The Dutch rider comes into the 'Hell of the North' after a solid top 10 at the World Championships

Mathieu van der Poel on recon for 2021 Paris-Roubaix
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel says he thinks it "would be quite cool if it rains" during his Paris-Roubaix debut.

Van der Poel comes into the race as one of the biggest favourites according to the bookies, despite recently returning from a back injury that saw him miss out on the Benelux Tour and the mountain bike World Championships.

However, the Alpecin-Fenix leader made an instant return to form with a win in his first race back from injury, followed by multiple good results including an eighth place at the road World Championships in Flanders, Belgium.

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Van der Poel spoke in a pre-race press conference about his thoughts on a possibility of his first-ever Paris-Roubaix being the first wet edition since 2002, saying: "I think it would be quite cool if it rains. It will be dangerous for sure and I can understand what they say about the crashing, but it’s always the case in Roubaix.

"You have to be very cautious and try not to get a flat tyre or a crash, and when it’s wet it’s even more important."

The 26-year-old had been on a recon of part of the course on Thursday morning until the Haveluy to Wallers sector. He explained that the cobbles are dry at the moment apart from one muddy section that was very slippery on the wheels.

Upon being asked whether or not his eighth at the Worlds was the perfect warm-up for Roubaix he answered: "Yes, I hope so. My first main goal was the Worlds of course, I knew it would be very difficult to be in top shape there but I was hoping that, in the final I could try and take the jersey but it didn’t work out.

"I hope that the race has added a little bit to my shape and I can end this Sunday and this season in a nice way."

Some riders who go well in Roubaix in the past have history in cyclo-cross, with the likes of Zdeněk Štybar (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) the most recent examples.

But Van der Poel thinks that this race is a different ball game altogether due to the size of the peloton.

"If you’re riding in a bunch you have to deal with other riders," Van der Poel said, "it’s going to be very slippery and hectic as well so I think it’s fine if you can handle your bike but if someone crashes in front of you, you have nowhere to go."

Van der Poel was later asked to summarise how his busy season has gone from his perspective. Some goals were definitely met, including a stage win and a stint in yellow at the Tour de France, as well as wins at Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Tour de Suisse.

But there were also some lows; he crashed out early at the Olympics cross-country mountain bike race, before a back injury kept him out of the MTB Worlds. He described his injury on his return at the road Worlds as "quite okay again."

Paris-Roubaix takes place on Sunday, October 3 over a brutal 257.7km of racing in northern France including 29 sectors of cobbles along the way.

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Tim Bonville-Ginn

Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!

I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.

After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.

When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.

My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.