Mathieu van der Poel leaves Tour de France to prepare for Olympics

The Dutchman will be riding the mountain bike event at the Tokyo Olympics

Mathieu van der Poel
(Image credit: Getty)

Mathieu van der Poel will not take to the start of stage nine of the Tour de France.

The Alpecin-Fenix rider won stage two of the race and held onto the leader's jersey for six days, eventually ceding it yesterday after finishing almost 21 minutes behind Tadej Pogačar, the new leader of the race.

With his sight set on winning gold in the mountain bike event at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, Van der Poel has decided to abandon the race and focus on his next goal.

Speaking before the stage, he said: "In a race like this, it's impossible against the climbers to defend [yellow].

"It was not my goal to go for GC. It's been an amazing week for me and my team: we have won two stages and we had yellow for six days.

"It's been my first Grand Tour and we can very proud of that. Unfortunately, I will not start today. We decided with my team that it's in my best interests to quit the race and focus on the Olympics.

"I am going to take some time to recover from this first week. I know it would have been difficult for me [to continue]. 

"Due to coronavirus, it's not possible to do the whole Tour and be at my top game at Tokyo. We've had an amazing week and I'll be back next year."

Van der Poel, who has won the last three cyclocross world championships, won the second stage of the Tour and did what his late grandfather Raymond Poulidor never did and take yellow.

Following the emotional victory, he held onto the race leadership during a frantic and at time chaotic opening week, finishing fifth on stage five's time trial.

On stage seven, he made the day's breakaway, a remarkable feat going against the tradition of the yellow jersey, and extended his lead in the general classification.

But as the race entered the Alps for the first time on Saturday, the 26-year-old struggled in the mountains and finished way back from stage winner Dylan Teuns.

He is among the favourites to win gold in the mountain bike event at the Olympics where he will come up against Britain's Tom Pidcock.