Dutch star Van der Poel has been struggling with a back injury in the second half of the 2021, but still came back to a promising performance at the World Championships.
Van der Poel made the final selection in the elite men’s road race on Sunday (September 26), joining the final 17 riders on the roads of Flanders, before Julian Alaphilippe powered away to defend his rainbow jersey.
Speaking after the finish, reigning cyclocross world champion Van der Poel said: “It was extremely hard. The teams started the race at 180km to go and from then on I suffered a lot.
“I was glad I was with the group of 17 favourites and I started to feel better, but it was pretty hard today.
“I would have loved to have been in slightly better shape here. But I think I can be proud of the result.”
Van der Poel’s season has been in doubt since he crashed out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics mountain bike event in July, as he has struggled to come back from a lingering back injury.
Despite his interrupted training programme, Van der Poel won his first race back, the Antwerp Port Classic on September 9, but was still unsure if he would compete in the Worlds road race until just a few days before the race.
Van der Poel rode to eighth place in Leuven on Sunday, leading in the third group on the road, as he now looks ahead to his final road race of the season, Paris-Roubaix on October 3.
When asked if he will be racing on the cobbles of northern France said: “Yes for sure. I hope this race will get me slightly better for next week and I hope to get a good result there as well.”
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