Mathieu van der Poel claims: “I think it will be a grueling race”

Photo by Gregory Van Gansen / Photonews

A few days before the road race at the World Cycling Championships in Flanders Mathieu van der Poel gave Alpecin Cycling an exclusive interview. The Dutch Team Alpecin-Fenix pro talks about his current form, the World Championship course as well as his ambitions and the competition.

How do you feel after the injuries and the long break?

I felt pretty good after my last races. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made in the past few weeks. The sessions at my physiotherapist have helped to release tension, which I’m happy about. I trained a lot to strengthen the back muscles as much as possible. It’s been a slow process, but at least there is progress and that’s satisfying.

Which kind of health problems do you still suffer at the moment?

Well, I didn’t have the best preparation and I’m sure my back will hurt after the race on Sunday. But I’ve done everything to be in the best possible shape for the Worlds. I wasn’t super fresh last weekend at the races, but I did a few longer training sessions before.

How is your current level of performance compared to your best in the past, maybe compared to Strade Bianche?

It’s hard to compare. I was riding on a high level at the Strade Bianche, one of my best ever. The situation is different now, but of course I prepared for the Worlds the best I could, given the circumstances. I feel I’m ready for it though, otherwise I wouldn’t be at the start.
Photo by Stefan Rachow

The course is not a typical Ronde, it is hillier like an Ardennes classic. Do you see it the same way? And do you like the course better than the Ronde? Why?

I must say I really like racing in this region. The roads are largely the same as in the Brabantse Pijl. I like it! However, the hills in the Ronde suit me a bit better I think, the cobbled climbs like Koppenberg or Oude Kwaremont. Cobbled climbs aren’t really the same as asphalt climbs. The hills on the World Championships course aren’t new to me, but they will surely hurt after a while because of the distance.

Who are your main competitors in this race and why?

Wout van Aert is surely a contender and he’s ready. He would be a good world champion. I also expect a lot of the French team with defending world champion Alaphilippe and of Italy and Denmark. They have the strongest teams I think.

“It’s not up to me to discuss tactics”

You will most likely be the captain of the Dutch team. The tactic will be that your team members will support you as much as possible to bring you fresh towards the final. Correct? Is it a problem for you that the Dutch team seems to only have one leader?

It’s not really up to me to discuss tactics, but I believe we have a strong lineup with different types of riders who can do well here. Also, when I do the spring classics with Alpecin-Fenix, in the race final it’s also up to myself to finish it off in the end.

What will be the key to win the race?

I think it will be a grueling race and the one with the best legs and shape on the local circuit will win.

Which sections and hills in the race will play a big role for the success in the end?

The distance, almost 270 km, and the number of climbs will take their toll. On the Flandrien circuit there are six short, punchy climbs, including the Smeysberg and the cobbled Moskesstraat. On the local circuit in Leuven there are four hills, of which Wijnpers is the steepest. But the Flandrien circuit will be tougher, for sure.

Does only the victory count for you – or are you also satisfied with a medal or a Top10-result?

I’m someone who always aims for the best possible result, a victory. Depending on how the race goes I think I can also be happy with a medal or a top ten, also because of my preparations for the race.