Mathieu van der Poel said that he felt “dizzy and empty” in the closing stages of the World Championships road race as he was dropped from the front group.
Sunday’s 261km race was contested in near biblical rain and with 33km to go Dutch sensation Van der Poel had instigated the move that resulted in him and Matteo Trentin (Italy) joining the group at the front, which would eventually contest the win.
However, on the last of nine laps of Harrogate Van der Poel suddenly dropped out the back of the group and was swiftly swallowed up by the peloton before falling further away. He eventually rolled across the line in 43rd place almost 11 minutes behind winner Mads Pedersen (Denmark).
“I felt pretty good. But then all of a sudden, the tank was empty,” Van der Poel said outside the Dutch team bus after showering and gathering his thoughts.
“I’m quite okay now actually. That’s a strange thing. The first 20 minutes after that I had to let the group go I was really dizzy and empty. But then the last four or five kilometres I was good again. So it was kind of strange.”
He added: “It’s not happened to me in the past but it’s also the first time I’ve raced this distance in the rain.”
The 24-year-old cyclocross world champion came into the race as one of the favourites after having made a major step up on the road in 2019 winning Amstel Gold and more recently the Tour of Britain in commanding form.
“I did everything I could of course I wanted more today, but it’s not that I was close to the title,” he said. “It’s a missed opportunity but there will be more.
“My attack was on instinct. I think it was a good moment because there was a strong group in front. So it was the perfect group to make the attack to and also in that moment, you’ll see, that a lot of favourites were also suffering.”
Van der Poel felt that the event had made its mark on every one of the procession of haunted and shivering riders that crossed the finish line.
“It was extremely cold at some moments. It’s a World Championship I will remember for a long time. I think every rider who rode it will remember it for a long time.”