Nibali, a multiple Grand Tour and Monument winner, suggested Van der Poel races on instinct and doesn’t rely on power readings when racing.
Van der Poel’s dominant performance on the white roads of Tuscany stunned both pros and cycling fans, as the Dutchman sprinted clear of Julian Alaphilippe on the final climb in Siena.
Trek-Segafredo rider Nibali, who was watching the racing on TV, told Gazzetta dello Sport, “[Power meters] can be useful in training, but not in racing.
“The data isn’t useful unless you have a point of reference. We’re better off switching our bike computers off in races or not looking at it.”
Van der Poel’s Alpecin-Fenix team shared their rider’s power data from the 2021 edition of Strade Bianche, revealing that the cyclocross world champion pushed a staggering normalised power of 389 watts for the whole race, which totalled four hours and 45 minutes in the saddle.
On his final attack on the short but steep climb to the Piazza del Campo, Van der Poel powered clear of Alaphilippe with an average power of 1,004w,
Nibali added: “It was crazy. I switched on the television for the last 60km and I saw what Mathieu did…mamma mia.”
The Italian Grand Tour star highlighted Van der Poel’s family background as the foundation for his phenomenal performances on the bikes.
Grandson of the late Tour de France legend Raymond Poulidor and the son of Tour of Flanders winner Adrie van der Poel, Mathieu’s genes “are the foundation of everything,” according to Nibali.
Van der Poel’s performance also earned him the respect of his rivals, including Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
World champion Alaphilippe said: “I would have preferred to take the victory, but I can be content with this result, as I did my best today but it happened that one guy was stronger in the final.”
Van Aert said: “I was just not good enough in the final.
“I have to be satisfied with the fourth place. The real acceleration wasn’t there yet.
“I’m in good shape, but the right focus has yet to come. Of course I wanted to win this race, but it wasn’t possible today.
“The steep climbs in combination with the attacks from Alaphilippe and Van der Poel were just too much. It is and remains one of the most beautiful races of the year and, as usual, the best has won here.”