'They'd have to ride up very slowly': Mathieu van der Poel expects to end pink jersey stint on Mount Etna

The Dutchman doesn't think he'll hang onto the race leaders on the first summit finish of the race

Mathieu van der Poel Giro d'Italia
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel will be wearing the pink jersey for the first Italian stage of the Giro d'Italia on Tuesday, but he admitted he doesn't expect to hold onto it for Wednesday's race. 

The Dutchman finished the Grande Partenza in Hungary leading the race overall, having built up an 11 second gap over second-placed Simon Yates. Van der Poel will consequently wear the pink jersey on Tuesday, following a rest day today (Monday), something he is certainly looking forwards to.

“It's nice to wear the pink and nice to take the jersey to Italy,” Van der Poel said. “I have enjoyed the pink days in Hungary, and I am going to enjoy them in Italy too.”

A 166km mountain stage finishing up Mount Etna in Sicily awaits the peloton for its first day in Italy. With the stage ending with a 22km climb at a 5.9 per cent average gradient, Van der Poel isn't expecting to be leading overall come the end of the stage. 

“Normally it won’t be possible to keep the jersey up Etna," he told NOS (opens in new tab). "I’ll see how it goes and how I feel, but I don’t know how far I can go.

"I don't think it's possible [to keep the lead]. Or they have to ride up very slowly, but I don't expect that. We'll see. We're going to start and see where it ends up, but I'm expecting to lose time there."

Unlike in the Tour last year, relinquishing the leader's jersey won't signal the end of Van der Poel's Grand Tour appearance. Instead, he still has other ambitions to work towards in Italy.

“I want to go for a stage win a few times. That I look forward to. There are still plenty of goals to come."

The Alpecin-Fenix rider stormed to victory on the opening day of the Giro d'Italia, securing the stage win in his debut at the Grand Tour. He then came second in the time trial on day two, crossing the line just three seconds after Simon Yates' winning time. 

On the third stage, Van der Poel attempted to help teammate Jakub Mareczko to win the inevitable sprint for the finish. While the Italian rider could only manage fifth, Van der Poel still regarded it as a good result, as he also didn't lose any time in the GC. 

“We did a good job as a team and drove a good lead-out, only Jakub lost my wheel at the roundabout. After that he got boxed in on the sprint, but he still has a good result.

“More was possible, but from my point of view it was locked in. That can happen in a sprint. But luckily we will have even more opportunities in the coming days."

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Staff Writer

Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.