'All of a sudden I was on the ground and my shoe was broken' - Mathieu van der Poel on World Championships win

Dutchman slipped out on a bend in closing stages and said that adrenaline kept him going on the way to the road world title

Mathieu van der Poel
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel explained that adrenaline kicked in after a late crash in the elite men’s road race at the World Championships left him with a torn jersey and a broken shoe.

The Dutchman continued his incredible form in 2023 - which has included two Monument victories at both Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo - and soloed to a sensational first-ever road world title in Glasgow.

On his way to victory he was unable to put consistent power through his pedals after breaking his cleat in the dramatic late crash.

Speaking to the media clad in his new rainbow jersey in Glasgow, Van der Poel said he was over the moon after delivering what had been the “biggest goal” of his career to date and that he was unable to explain how he suddenly slipped out on one of the final bends in the circuit.

“With the crash, I still don't know what happened to be honest,” he said. “I was really not pushing or taking any risks because my legs were feeling really good. So I knew I could make a difference on the climbs and the parts where you could push, and then all of a sudden I was on the ground and my shoe was broken.

“That made it hard to put power in the pedals, especially because I realised that the cleat was also broken so I didn't have a lot of power anymore. I think some adrenaline took over as well. So I'm really happy and lucky as my bike wasn't broken or anything and I could just continue.”

The 28-year-old admitted that his confidence had been knocked after hitting the ground in such dramatic circumstances. However, “instinct” kicked in and enabled him to blank out any pain and continue with victory and the rainbow bands still in reach.

“It's just instinct I guess,” he said. “You just want to go as fast as possible on the bike again and luckily I could find my rhythm. I didn't really trust any of the corners anymore after that and it made it even more difficult but my legs were still pretty strong.

“When I saw the time gap going up again it gave me a confidence boost and then the first time they showed the one minute mark I knew that on the way to the finish line I could take it easier through the corners and that I would make it.

“It’s such an incredible feeling.”

Mathieu van der Poel

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Glasgow circuit provided a dramatic spectacle full of sweeping bends, fast-flowing corners and a series of short, punchy climbs.

Pre-race it appeared to be a course tailor made for a cyclo-cross rider of the highest standard. Van der Poel took the cyclo-cross world title earlier this year in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands and relied on his trademark power to get the job done in Glasgow once he’d launched a huge late attack.

“It's difficult to make a really big difference in the corners [on this course]”, he explained. “I think you just need really good legs because the course is just so hard here. You have to sprint out of every corner and then you still have some steep climbs in there.

“So after 250 kilometres it was just so hard that you just saw the strongest come to the front.”

Mathieu van der Poel

(Image credit: Getty Images)

His victory ended a 38 year wait for a Dutch road world title winner. However, Van der Poel explained that he wasn’t too focused on the significance of his achievement for Dutch cycling as a whole and was just satisfied with becoming world champion on a personal level.

Now with the road race ticked off, the 28-year-old's attention turns to next week’s Olympic cross-country mountain bike race in Glentress in which he’ll go up against Great Britain’s Tom Pidcock.

The 28-year-old joked that due to the small gap in between the two races he’d allow himself time to savour his victory against long standing rival Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogačar who took second and third respectively.

“It will be a nice party tonight,” he said. “I’ll make an exception as normally I wouldn't party until next week, but I have several days to recover and this is a special moment so i want to celebrate.

“This was one of my biggest goals of the year and to make it happen is just something else. It’ll be  so special to wear this jersey for a year so I'm looking forward to it.

“It’s a huge honour to get to wear these stripes.”

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Tom Thewlis

Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. He has reported from a wide range of races and events including the Tour de France and World Championships.