Mathieu van der Poel will fine-tune his form for the Tour of Flanders with a ride at the semi-Classic Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday.
The Dutchman only recently returned to road racing action after a long layoff with a back injury he suffered at the Olympic Games mountain bike race in August of last year. The injury meant he missed most of the winter's cyclocross season, but his recovery and subsequent training have clearly been on point as he made a spectacular return to racing with Alpecin-Fenix at Milan-San Remo, battling hard to take third place in the longest one-day race of the year.
Van der Poel was a late replacement in the team at Milan-San Remo due to injury and illness in his team, and backed up that appearance with the five-day race Coppi e Bartali three days later. The 27-year-old displayed more scintillating form there, winning the fourth stage of the Italian race in a bunch finish having been in the breakaway and on a solo attack earlier in the stage.
Racing the Coppi e Bartali meant he missed the E3 Saxo Bank Classic last Friday, with Alpecin-Fenix also opting to go with sprinters Tim Merlier and Jasper Philipsen to Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.
The 183.7km Dwars door Vlaanderen will therefore be Van der Poel's first taste of cobbles action this season before he heads to the Tour of Flanders on Sunday in search of a second title following his 2020 victory.
While he won't face his long-time rival Wout van Aert at Dwars door Vlaanderen - the Belgian champion opting to rest before this weekend's Monument - Van der Poel will still come up against some stiff competition, including Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). Pogačar is taking aim at the Tour of Flanders for the first time this year, as well as gaining valuable experience on the cobbles before the Tour's pavé stage in July.
The usual formidable Classics riders dominate the Dwars door Vlaanderen start list alongside Van der Poel, including last year's winner Dylan van Baarle, two-time winner Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), the on-form Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), and Classics great Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r Citroën Team).
The men's 2022 Dwars door Vlaanderen takes place on Wednesday March 30 over 183.7km between Roeselare and Waregem in Belgium.
Alpecin-Fenix team for Dwars door Vlaanderen 2022
Mathieu van der Poel
Dries De Bondt
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