Mathieu van der Poel has his sites set on being fully fit for Paris-Roubaix as he makes his return from injury, though the Netherlands are still holding his place for the World Championships road race on September 26 in Belgium.
The Dutchman injured his back in a crash during the Tokyo Olympics mountain bike cross country race, but he made his return last Sunday to win the Antwerp Port Epic.
Following the race, Van der Poel made it clear that he will only race in the World Championships and Paris-Roubaix if he is 100 per cent fit.
“If I had to estimate my chances (for Worlds and Roubaix) now, I’m already thinking about something more than the 50/50 that I indicated this morning,” said van der Poel after Antwerp Port Epic.
“I want to be able to train well for another two weeks to get a decent form at the Worlds. If I’m only at 70 percent, I won’t participate."
“I’ve been told that I can’t break anything in the long run. That is also the reason why I am so eager to try to make it to Paris-Roubaix and the World Championships. And after that, I want to take a longer rest to let the back heal completely. Because I have to get rid of it someday.”
Van der Poel's team, Alpecin-Fenix, have already included him on the Paris-Roubaix start list, suggesting that he is confident he'll make the race. The team has also confirmed though that Van der Poel will race in the Primus Classic (September 18), the Gooikse Pijl (September 19) and the GP de Denain (September 21), with these races determining his involvement in the Worlds and Paris-Roubaix.
Alpecin-Fenix sports director Christoph Roodhooft told Het Laatste Nieuws: "The towel has not been thrown in for the World Championships. It is true that he misses some training and competition kilometres. There's not much we can do about that now. It's not like he can train ten times for six hours. But is that a problem?"
Regardless, the Netherlands are hoping for the 26-year-olds return for the World Championships road race, where he would partner Dylan van Baarle, Bauke Mollema, Mike Teunissen, Sebastian Langeveld, Oscar Riesebeek, Danny van Poppel and Pascal Eenkhoorn.
Netherlands team coach Koos Moerenhout hasn't yet named a reserve should van der Poel drop out of the team. However, he still retains hope that Mathieu will be available.
"The selection is not yet one hundred percent final", said Moerenhout. “But Mathieu will have to decide for himself after the weekend whether his back can handle the load and whether he can perform the necessary training work towards the World Championships.
“Of course it makes a difference if he can be there in good condition, because then he will be considered a favourite by many. We have more riders who can play on this terrain for a long time, but with Mathieu there, we obviously have more pronounced chances of a good result."
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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