Mathieu van der Poel opens world of possibilities after promise he'll do everything he can to win a Tour de France stage

The Dutchman says he wants to race in the attacking style he always does, to entertain both himself and the fans

Mathieu van der Poel
(Image credit: Getty)

The number of times Mathieu van der Poel has been asked about the pressure foisted upon his shoulders when he turns up to the biggest bike races in the world would have seen a regular human folding themselves up into a mind prison of doubt over their own abilities. At some point, if something is repeated over and over again, it escapes into reality and becomes tangible.

"Yeah, there's a lot [of pressure] to win in the first two stages and I think many riders are focused on those two," Mathieu van der Poel says, having tested just how great the appetite for him is by appearing via Zoom link at 9am, and yes, the press conference was still packed. "Also because there's a yellow jersey attached to the win in the first stage.

"Of course, I'm going to do everything I can do to try and win a stage."

The 26-year-old quickly adds that this is not just his debut Tour de France, but first-ever three-week race and that he's just here to discover what it's like and that it's not going to be easy...blah blah blah! Like the Zwift advert says (and won't stop saying) - this is Mathieu van der Poel, and in this instance, we won't be taking his humility at face value, thank you very much.

What you can trust is when he says he's going to try and do everything he can to win a stage and it's easier to find days that won't suit him than the multitude of stages that will.

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Yes, the first two stages are ideal, Classics-esque, and it will be a mouthwatering prospect seeing him, rival Wout van Aert and world champion Julian Alaphilippe, amongst others, battling it out for the first taste of stage victory as well as the yellow jersey.

Then follows a couple of flat days, where Van der Poel will also be able to challenge in the sprints. The stage five time trial will likely be a day off, before six, seven and eight could also be ideal for the Dutchman.

The only difference, Van der Poel says of the opening two stages when comparing them to the fight of the big Classics, will be the presence of the GC teams protected their leaders at the front, and with the Alpecin-Fenix rider's talents, why complicate the understanding of a Tour stage further than that?

Van der Poel doesn't currently have any intention of leaving the Tour early in order to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics, which start almost as soon as racing in France concludes. After all, he'll be able to challenge on the Champs-Élysées too.

"There's a lot of opportunities and the course looks very nice this year," he says, ominously, and as the race goes on and as more riders begin to gamble on breakaways, Van der Poel says he will try to race as he often does, attacking off the front from a long way out.

"If the course suits it, I will try and just race like I always do," Van der Poel says. "But tomorrow [stage one], I think it's going to be difficult because also the last five kilometres towards the last climb is really fast and it's almost impossible to stay in front of a big bunch sprinting towards the last climb. 

"For [stage one] I don't think it's an option but I hope for this week that there will be some stages that are a bit similar to a Classics race where we start racing from 50km from the finish line maybe and that would be nice, also [nice] for the spectators I think."

Van der Poel doesn't only have the fans in mind, but also his family, the Alpecin-Fenix squad sporting a special jersey at the team presentation to honour his maternal grandfather, the late, great Raymond Poulidor, but although proud to take ownership of what will be remembered as he follows in Pou-Pou's footsteps, he adds that the Tour legend never capturing the yellow jersey bears no weight on his own aspirations.

"It's something special if you can wear the yellow jersey once in your career, and yeah, it would have been even nicer if he was just here," Van der Poel says.

"It's not that it's extra special or something but it would be nice to wear it once. And if it's not in my first Tour, I hopefully have some more chances in the next years to try and grab it."

This weekend, Mathieu is also looking forward to watching the Netherlands Euros game live after stage one (he says he's watched nearly every game of the tournament so far) and will have to watch Sunday's Formula 1 Grand Prix on catch-up.

In between, he will be trying to win his first Tour de France stage, and maybe also the yellow jersey.

Jonny Long

Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.


Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).


I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.