By Gregor Brown
The Tour de France will have to be on Mathieu van der Poel's programme in the future, says his grandfather and three-time Tour runner-up Raymond Poulidor.
Frenchman Poulidor, who placed second in 1964, 1965 and 1974, is as blown away by his grandson as the rest of the cycling world.
After seeing his rides this spring, including a heroic Tour of Flanders ride and victory in Amstel Gold Race, Poulidor wants Dutch rider van der Poel to race the Tour.
"He's already doing huge things at his age, and he's adapting to all the disciplines of cycling," Poulidor told Dutch broadcaster NOS.
"One day I think he wants to do the Tour, who knows, but I think he will have to do it in the future. I don't see him ever giving up cyclocross though, it is sacred to him."
Van der Poel, the reigning cyclocross world champion, plans on racing mountain bike World Cups and building towards his goal of a gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It is still unclear if he will devote himself completely to the road afterwards.
The 24-year-old Dutchman, the son of Poulidor's daughter, made huge impact this season.
He placed fourth in Ghent-Wevelgem, won Dwars door Vlaanderen, crashed heavily and returned to lead the star group over the final Paterberg climb in the Tour of Flanders, won the Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race.
Poulidor recognised van der Poel resembles his father more so than his grandfather. Adrie van der Poel won several one-day races including the Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Amstel Gold Race.
"If he had no problems along the way in Flanders, he would have been the winner. He was the moral winner that day," said Poulidor. "He has the genes of his father and grandfather, he is better than us, you will see."
Van der Poel will begin racing mountain bikes this Thursday (May 9) with the Belgian Mountain Bike Challenge. He could be pulled back to the road this season if the Dutch coach has his way.
"The Yorkshire worlds course is made for him," national coach, Koos Moerenhout told Het Nieuwsblad. "I hope he says yes."
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