Mathieu van der Poel cleared to race again as back injury threatens rest of 2021 season

The Dutchman still has big plans for the last few months of the year, but will his back hold up under the strain

Mathieu van der Poel at the Tokyo Olympics
Mathieu van der Poel at the Tokyo Olympics
(Image credit: ANP Sport via Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel has been cleared to race again, as an ongoing back injury threatens to derail the remainder of the season.

The Dutch superstar hasn’t raced since the Tokyo Olympic mountain bike event, which saw him crash out in dramatic fashion on a high-speed drop.

Van der Poel has been struggling with back problems through the latter part of the 2021 calendar, which forced him to pull out of a recent team training camp and miss the mountain bike World Championships. 

After he also pulled out of the 2021 Benelux Tour late last month, the rest of the 2021 season came into doubt for Van der Poel, as his Alpecin-Fenix team said his training and racing schedule would depend on his recovery.

On Monday (September 7), Alpecin-Fenix confirmed Van der Poel had been cleared to ride the Antwerp Port Epic road race in Belgium on September 12, but the rest of his schedule is still not confirmed.

Van der Poel had been planning to race the road World Championships in Flanders later this month, followed by the delayed Paris-Roubiax in early October, before turning his attention to the cyclocross bike for the winter.

Alpecin-Fenix said: “Update: Mathieu van der Poel has been training stable for about a week now. He will resume racing on Sunday at the Antwerp Port Epic, after which an interim evaluation will be made with regard to his schedule for the rest of the season.” 

Antwerp Port Epic is a challenging 170km UCI 1.1-ranked race, starting and finishing in Antwerp, featuring dozens of flat cobbled sections.  

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Van der Poel has had a strong season up to this point, taking seven wins and a six-day stint in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, but his last few goals of the season now look in jeopardy due to this injury.  

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.