Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) has promised to try and win everywhere as he prepares to line up for the cobbled Classics this October, including his first-ever participation in Paris-Roubaix.
The Dutch road race champion will first line-up at Brabantse Pijl as defending champion on Wednesday October 7, no longer able to defend his title at the cancelled Amstel Gold Race the following weekend on Saturday October 10.
Van der Poel will then race Gent-Wevelgem on the Sunday before readying himself for a second Tour of Flanders appearance followed by his debut Hell of the North.
"If I can choose I'd rather win a Monument but it's not that I don't want to win in Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday or Gent-Wevelgem," Van der Poel said as to his priorities this October. "It's been a strange season and I'm just going to try and do my best everywhere and hopefully win."
The 25-year-old was speaking after finishing his maiden Liège-Bastogne-Liège in a respectable sixth place.
Van der Poel was unable to go with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) when the world champion attacked near the summit of Roche-aux-Faucons, the leading quartet then working hard to not let the Van der Poel-led chase group back into the fold all the way to the finish line.
"I think I surprised myself a little bit to finish in the top 10 today," Van der Poel admitted. "I'm really happy with the sixth place but on the other hand, it's a bit of a pity that we see Mohorič managed to still close the gap to the front group from the group I was in so that's maybe the downside of the day. But in general, I can be very happy."
While Van der Poel single-handedly brought the race back together in last year's Amstel Gold Race before winning the sprint for the line, Alaphilippe, Marc Hirschi (Sunweb), Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) knew what the Dutchman was capable of and made sure to keep him at arm's length.
Such was the effort Van der Poel exerted to bring the chase group within 14 seconds of the leaders that he was not able to jump across like Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-McLaren) did. Van der Poel did, however, still win the sprint from the chase group to finish sixth.
"For sure it was a bit difficult because it was at the last minute that it was decided I'd do this race so I didn't do a recon," Van der Poel said as to one explanation why he was not able to follow Alaphilippe's attack. "Tom Dumoulin was pulling really hard and they attacked when I was on the limit so I don't know if I was able to go...I don't think so.
"Afterwards, we were quite a good group together and I hoped if we joined together I could sprint but it was too late."
Moreover, Van der Poel lined up at Liège a day after putting the peloton of the BinckBank Tour to the sword, taking a magnificent solo stage win and overhauling a 17-second deficit on GC to claim the overall victory.
"After the BinckBank Tour I think it gives a lot of confidence for the races that are coming," Van der Poel said ominously, although he'll face stiff competition from his cyclo-cross nemesis Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), whose form has been mightily impressive since racing returned after lockdown.
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