Mathieu van der Poel declares 'I'm ready' ahead of Tour of Flanders

The Alpecin-Fenix rider says Tadej Pogačar is going to be a big threat on Sunday

Mathieu van der Poel
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel has said he is "ready" for the Tour of Flanders as he prepares to make his cobbles return at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday.

The Alpecin-Fenix rider has raced just six times this season after a long layoff with a back injury, but speaking to the media on Tuesday, said that he has had a "really good preparation" for Dwars and the Ronde this week.

Van der Poel cut short his cyclocross season and did not return to racing until Milan-San Remo, where he battled hard to take third place. He then won a stage at Coppi e Bartali last week, which he said was "close to what I need to be good in the Flemish classics".

"I think it's maybe been one of my best preparations," the Dutchman argued. "Because I had the time to prepare myself the way I want to and not immediately start racing after the cyclocross season. I feel pretty good with the preparation I did. It still has to pay off, but I felt pretty good during my races already. I

" think that proves it was a good preparation, although it was a bit shorter than I would have done if I had the choice."

He was asked about the threat of Wout van Aert, who has won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the E3 Saxo Bank Classic so far this season, and Tadej Pogačar, who was a dominant winner of Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico.

"It's a difficult question, I don't know," he said, batting away the inquiry. "I just look forward to racing again. Also, with the crowds, it's been a two years now Ronde [without them], so it's gonna be a nice to race again. It's an honest race, we've seen in the past couple years that the strongest riders will be in front. So I look forward to to try and race for the victory again."

On Pogačar, who will be making his debut at the Tour of Flanders, Van der Poel said: "I don't know why he is doing it."

"But for sure we've seen that he is capable of everything he does," he continued "So, I think it's someone we have to pay attention to as well in the upcoming races.

"He showed already that he's a pretty good at attacking a few times as well. He showed that he's capable of doing a lot of things. So I think it will be there in the front of the race."

He said that he still has to "pay a lot of attention" to his back after injuring it, but that he is almost pain free on the bike. 

"I do my daily exercises and I need a lot of treatments for the back as well," he said. "But I'm good as pain free on the bike. So It's something that keeps me motivated and I think on the bike it's been better than it's been the last year. I'm really happy with it but I just have to give it a lot of attention, but for now it's going great."

Van der Poel's time away from racing did not sound like the easiest: "I don't know if it was a good mentally because you're not healthy and you have some troubles as well. I think if you are completely healthy then it would be a different thing. But now, it was not really a nice period, so I'm just happy to be back now."

Asked about what his late start to the year might mean for the rest of the season, the Dutchman said succinctly: "I don't know. I can't look to the future so I can answer that question."

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.