Mathieu van der Poel stuns with one-day race victory despite back injury

The Dutch superstar says chances of riding Paris-Roubaix and World Championships are 'now higher than 50/50'

Mathieu van der Poel at the 2021 Tour de France
Mathieu van der Poel at the 2021 Tour de France
(Image credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel's lingering back injury appear doesn't appear to have slowed him down much. 

The Dutchman returned to competition on Sunday (September 12) at the Antwerp Port Epic, after an extended break due to back problems that have hindered his training.

Van der Poel is among the favourites for both the World Championships and the delayed 2021 Paris-Roubaix in the coming months, but his back injury has thrown the rest of the season into doubt for the Alpecin-Fenix rider. 

 The 26-year-old out-sprinted his compatriot Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) after four hours of racing in Belgium on Sunday, but is still not convinced he will be at 100 per cent for his final targets of the season.

 Speaking with cycling website Wielerflits after the finish of the Antwerp Port Epic, Van der Poel said: “I did everything I could to test the back today and certainly didn't play hide and seek. I purposely wanted to make it a long finale to feel how I reacted.  

“If I had to estimate my chances now, I'm already thinking about something more than the 50/50 that I indicated this morning." 

Van der Poel said he will consult with his physiotherapists this week, but added he is eager to race the World Championships in Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, before he plans to take rest to let his back heal.

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The reigning world cyclocross champion hasn't raced since the Tokyo Olympics in July, where he crashed out of the men's mountain bike event in dramatic fashion.

Van der Poel said he would like to ride the Primus Classic on September 18, and then the Grand Prix de Denain on September 21 if his back is strong enough, as his final test races before the Worlds road race on September 26.  

Alex Ballinger
Alex Ballinger

Alex is the digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter and now as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output.

Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) and joining CW in 2018, Alex has 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 journalism, Alex is a national level time triallist, avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.