Mathieu van der Poel will make his first competitive appearance of 2022 at Milan-San Remo, his Alpecin-Fenix team have confirmed.
Alpecin-Fenix have included Van der Poel on their roster starting at the Italian Monument, having already confirmed he will ride Tuesday's Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali.
The Dutchman hasn't raced competitively since Boxing Day at the UCI World Cup cyclocross race at Dendermonde, instead recovering from a longstanding back injury he sustained from a nasty crash in the mountain bike event at Tokyo 2020 last summer.
𝐋𝐎𝐎𝐊 𝐖𝐇𝐎'𝐒 𝐁𝐀𝐂𝐊! 😍@mathieuvdpoel will line-up for #MilanoSanremo tomorrow!🎬 Check the full video with Mathieu on https://t.co/lsDBZcLCD3 to discover his race schedule for the next weeks, and his thoughts on his return to competition. pic.twitter.com/tpMILkRc5BMarch 18, 2022
Despite this, he will make a spectacular return to action at Milan-San Remo on Saturday, with his team deeming him fit enough to complete the gruelling 293km race. Though a supremely talented rider, Alpecin-Fenix haven't placed any expectations on Van der Poel for the first Monument of the season.
A team statement read: "Van der Poel's training in recent weeks has been satisfactory and his back issues seem to be gradually disappearing.
"Nevertheless, the team management do not want to put any pressure on the four-time cyclocross world champion; he will participate without expectations or ambitions.
"The 293 km race was preferred over a training session on Saturday to get some extra race kilometres in the legs. After Milano-Sanremo, Van der Poel will stay in Italy for the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali."
The 27-year-old's involvement also seems to have been fast-tracked due to the illness making its way through the team, and seven riders participating in today's (Friday) Bredene Koksijde Classic.
Kristian Sbaragli and Jasper Philipsen are the only other Alpecin-Fenix riders so far confirmed to race Milan-San Remo, with only six available to start for the Belgian outfit.
Alpecin-Fenix said: "Due to the several sick and injured riders in the team, only six would remain to line-up for La Primavera. Because Van der Poel’s return was already scheduled for Tuesday at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, it was decided on Thursday to add him to the roster for Milano-Sanremo."
While thrusting Van der Poel back into the action at professional cycling's longest one-day seems a tough ask, he has been training in Spain since the beginning of February. In that month, he clocked 2,000km and nearly 30,000m of elevation gain as he attempted to get racing fit once again, and over March he ramped up his preparations even more as he is now deemed fit enough to race at Milan-San Remo.
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