'It was a bit boring in the beginning & all of a sudden we were racing all day': Mathieu van der Poel didn't plan to join Tour de France stage seven breakaway

The Dutch superstar followed rivals into the breakaway to ensure he kept his yellow jersey for one more day

Mathieu van der Poel went into the break to keep hold of the yellow jersey at the Tour de France 2021
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel used the old footballing term of attack being the best defence on stage seven of the Tour de France 2021 despite it not being the original plan.

The Alpecin-Fenix rider was keen to keep yellow for another day on a stage that arguably suited his characteristics, but the race has not seen the yellow jersey go into the breakaway since Greg Van Avermaet did so in 2018.

Van der Poel made sure he got into the escape after he saw some dangerous riders and main rivals Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) getting up the road. The Dutchman then just stuck to their wheels.

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Speaking after the stage, which was the longest in 21 years, he said: "It was not my idea [to go into the break] but a lot of guys were going in the breakaway and it was a bit boring in the beginning and all of a sudden it was a big group and we were racing all day. I’m really happy with the result, to be keeping the jersey after today.

He managed to extend his lead in yellow to 30 seconds as Van Aert is now his closest challenger with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) slipping to almost four minutes.

"For sure it was very hard. I think a lot of guys already were tired before the climb even started, it was just a brutal day," continued Van der Poel. 

"I haven’t witnessed that for a long time on the bike, to race for so long on a bike, and in a Grand Tour, my first Grand Tour. I haven’t seen this."

Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) took the stage win and Van der Poel was content with the Slovenian staying away as he focussed solely on the jersey and making sure he kept it.

"I was there with the yellow jersey in mind. It’s impossible to go for the stage win. Van Aert and Asgreen were close to me in the GC and I had to react to them, I’m happy to keep the jersey for another day."

It is still expected that Van der Poel will leave the race early to head over to Japan and ride the cross-country mountain bike event at the Olympic Games, but he is still being asked how long he can hold on and if he's a GC man now.

"I’m not here for GC ambitions, that’s pretty clear. Now, I get to keep the jersey for one more day and we’ll see what that brings, but I’m not here to do a GC.

"I had my stage win on the Mûr de Bretagne, I’m really happy with that. For sure it was really difficult today. The yellow jersey isn’t easy to win like I said it’s a different approach to the race, I just wanted to keep the jersey so I only reacted to the people close to me in the general."

Stage eight is the first major mountains stage as we finally reach the Alps for a weekend of climbing with the eighth day being a 50.8km route from Oyonnax to Le Grand Bornand.

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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.