After a week where his rockets have blown up upon landing and Tesla’s market cap slides in the wrong direction, Elon Musk may want to give Mathieu van der Poel a call, the Dutchman successfully commencing liftoff and his stock continuing to rise – and it’s anyone’s guess how much higher it can go – after the spectacular fashion in which he took victory at Strade Bianche.
“I felt really good today,” Van der Poel said, his post-race comments much more understated than his bike racing.
“On the last gravel section (Le Tolfe) I attacked and took Alaphilippe and Bernal with me. I felt that I still had something left in my legs on the final climb…to top it off like this is insane.”
Van der Poel was always going to be the man to beat after that particular trio clipped off and went clear of their rivals, and the Alpecin-Fenix star says Alaphilippe had already admitted his legs were done for the day.
“I noticed that Alaphilippe was getting a bit tired. He also said that his legs were a bit less and therefore skipped a few turns. Bernal, on the other hand, gave a very strong impression. I hope this is the start of a great spring campaign.”
Alaphilippe is in agreement, despite being unaccustomed to getting ridden off someone’s wheel. Usually, the world champion is the afflicter.
“I remained focused on the latter sector, but you could already see how strong Van der Poel was. On the final climb you could really see how [well] he was going.”
For Wout van Aert, Van der Poel’s usual nemesis on both the road and at cyclocross meets, the Belgian is still finding his feet, having made his 2021 road debut at Strade Bianche and not being able to match the Dutchman’s accelerations, eventually leading the group behind over the line to take fourth place.
“I was there, but I wasn’t good enough in the final,” Van Aert said. “When Alaphilippe accelerated, I ran into difficulties. Then I already knew it wouldn’t be my day.
“That [extra] gear is not there yet. I would not be the first, but I will still take [the race for] fourth. So I took the maximum out of it.
“In this race the strongest always wins and that was Mathieu today. His acceleration on that last stretch said enough.”
It’s now up to this talented array of rivals to come up with an answer to Van der Poel, with even bigger one-day prizes still to come this spring. Regardless of whether they do or not, fans will likely still be left speechless.