Mathieu van der Poel returns to the Netherlands after team pulls out of UAE Tour

Could the cyclocross world champion now ride Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this weekend?

Mathieu van der Poel has returned home along with four of his team-mates and three staff members after testing negative for Covid-19 and not being seen as high-risk.

Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) would have started Monday’s stage of the UAE Tour in the leader’s jersey, but due to a positive coronavirus case within the team, they have been forced to leave the race.

However two of the Dutch road race champion’s team-mates, Gianni Vermeersch and Jonas Rickaert have been forced to stay behind with most of the team’s staff members as they prove to be high-risk, according to the UAE health authorities.

>>> Chris Froome on Israel Start-Up Nation: ‘Ineos have been winning Grand Tours for years, this is something new’

The team said in a statement: “Riders Roy Jans, Jasper Philipsen, Kristian Sbaragli, Mathieu van der Poel and Louis Vervaeke, as well as three staff members, who received a negative PCR-test result on Sunday (February 21) and are not a high-risk contact, are travelling home via Amsterdam on the additional condition of a negative rapid test at the airport on Monday (February 22) evening.

“These tests revealed negative results for all aforementioned riders and staff members. They will arrive in the Netherlands on Tuesday (February 22) morning.

“All others, including those who received negative PCR-test, but who are considered as a high-risk contact, will remain in quarantine at the team’s hotel as long as required by the UAE health authorities.

“Among them are riders Jonas Rickaert and Gianni Vermeersch, both high-risk contacts, and the remaining staff members.

“The team will continue to strictly follow the health and sefety protocols and guidlines set out by the UCI and the local authorities.

“As soon as there is new information on the status of the team members that are still in quarantine in the UAE, we will further communicate. Potential changes in riders’ race plans will be looked into in due time.”

This means, if Van der Poel continues to test negative, he could be on the start list for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the Classics Opening Weekend on February 27-28.

The cyclocross world champion looked in superb form in the UAE and would likely want to continue that form, so making his first Classics appearance a few weeks earlier than expect could replace the racing he was expecting in the Middle East.