Mathieu van der Poel has become the latest high profile rider to admit to feeling the effects of mental fatigue in 2022.
After a long season in which the Dutchman won the Tour of Flanders for a second time, before competing in both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, van der Poel explained that “there’s not much left in the tank” as he looks ahead to a period of downtime before building for 2023.
During the World Championships in Wollongong, Australia the Dutchman made the headlines for all the wrong reasons after being arrested in connection with an altercation with two teenage girls in the Dutch team hotel. After being charged with two counts of common assault, the Dutchman was later fined £900 for the incident.
After returning to Europe, Van der Poel participated in the inaugural UCI Gravel World Championships as well as the Giro del Veneto which he abandoned shortly before the finish. His final road competition in 2022 will be the Serenissima Gravel race on Friday.
He suffered with a niggling back complaint at the turn of the year, before hitting an early season hot streak that saw him win Dwars door Vlaanderen as well as the Tour of Flanders and the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia.
At the Tour de France Van der Poel's form began to dip and he was visibly affected by fatigue admitting that he hadn’t reached the level he had wanted for a while. Before racing at Serenissima he told Cycling News (opens in new tab) that he hopes he can take a break before the cyclocross season begins and he starts to plan for 2023.
“I think this year the mental fatigue is a bit bigger than the physical one. There’s not really a lot left,” he said. “I will be happy if I can take a little break again after Friday.”
The Dutchman is one of several riders in the WorldTour who balances their talents across various cycling disciplines. Tom Pidcock of Ineos Grenadiers is another and he also admitted to being mentally fatigued after a long campaign when he pulled out of the road World Championships in September.
Due to feeling the effects of an end of season burn out, Van der Poel explained that 2023 will see him target only one Grand Tour as well as his usual classics campaign.
“For sure, I will only do one Grand Tour next year,” he said. “I think this year was a bit exceptional as well because there was a chance to take the pink jersey in the Giro, but otherwise I will do the same as I did in the years before: just 10-15 cyclocross races, then I’ll prepare myself for the Classics season, then take some rest and go to the Tour,” he added.
Given the physical and mental toll of elite level competition, Van der Poel also concluded that competing well into his 40’s won’t be an option.
“For me it’s not possible to do this for 15 years, but that’s talking for me. I can only talk for myself. As I’m feeling now, I will definitely not go until I’m 40 years old.”
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