Mathieu van der Poel has confirmed he will take an extended break from cycling to attempt to fix the back injury he has been struggling with for some months now.
The Dutchman, who only made his cyclocross season debut on December 26 after recovering from a knee injury, won't feature in any more races this winter. As a result, he'll miss the Cyclocross World Championships in Fayetteville at the end of January, while his road schedule is still unclear.
Though disappointed with the outcome, Van der Poel recognises it is essential he recuperates from the back problems which have plagued him for much of 2021. His Olympic mountain bike race fall certainly didn't help matters either, and the Alpecin-Fenix rider has since been advised to rest.
“I can't say much about it, it's no different. Because of that back pain, I have not reached my desired level since the Tour de France and I just want to get rid of that.
"The only remedy appears to be a longer rest period and it would therefore be stupid to interrupt this period again and still try to make it to the World Cup. We all agree on that.
"Even though it is very sour – I have participated in the World Cross Country Championships ten times in a row – not being able to defend my jersey in America is a real downer.”
Van der Poel abandoned the Heusden-Zolder Superprestige race before the finish due to his back injury, and his father Adrie has suggested in the last week his son should stop riding until he fully heals the problem.
Initially a personal viewpoint, Adrie's perspective has now been reinforced by Van der Poel's Alpecin-Fenix team, with managers Christoph and Philip Roodhooft suggesting time off is essential.
A joint statement from the managers read: "We want to optimize the healing process and that is not possible if there is time pressure for a possible participation in the World Championships in Fayetteville. Hence the decision to end his cyclo-cross campaign.
"Medically there is no news to report. Mathieu respects the prescribed rest, and the injury is monitored by the medical staff and the treating specialist."
The 26-year-old has also refused to put a timeframe on his return. While a return in time for the Spring Classics is the undoubted goal, Van der Poel makes clear fixing his back injury is the priority.
He said: “We will not put a date on the return.
“I'm not worried about the further course of my career, but of course it frustrates me at the moment that I don't know how long the rest period will last. We only set a date and goals if we can do so in a substantiated manner. Until then, I'll do what I can."
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