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Mathieu van der Poel on ninth at Paris-Roubaix: ‘I should be happy with what I got out of the spring season’

Van der Poel content on injury comeback after top-10s at Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix and victory at Tour of Flanders.

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ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) finished ninth in a dusty Paris-Roubaix on Sunday which isn’t exactly what he hoped for at the start of the race.

The Dutch ace rode rather anonymously during most of the race, but featured in the favorites group that hit the final 50km. There was still hope among his fans that he was racing smart but it turned out to be idle hope. Van der Poel was unable to respond to the attacks at 30km from the finish and eventually settled for ninth place at 2:34 from his compatriot and winner Dylan van Baarle (Ineos-Grenadiers).

After struggling with a back injury for months Mathieu van der Poel was a surprise participant at Milan-San Remo. It proved to be the perfect training for the spring classics, and it led to a big victory at the Tour of Flanders.

Two weeks later, van der Poel wasn’t going as strong as I had hoped for in Paris-Roubaix.

“My back hurts now but after such a race everybody will have a sore back I imagine. I’m realistic. My spring season wasn’t very long so that isn’t the reason for not having great legs today,” he said. “Obviously, one hopes for more in Roubaix but when looking back I should be happy with what I got out of the spring season, coming out of the situation I was in. Especially with the victory in De Ronde. Now I’ll take a break for a few days.”

After crossing the finish line van der Poel was laying down on the grass at the inside of the velodrome for a while, recovering from the challenging efforts of the previous five to six hours. A few minutes later he walked towards the mixed zone to talk with the awaiting media. He was asked what he was thinking about when laying in the grass.

“Not much really,” van der Poel laughed. “It was special today. It was a race straight from the start and it just didn’t stop.”

At 32km from the finish, the race got really tactical in the favorites group which featured ten riders at short distance from lone leader Tom Devriendt.

First, Matej Mohorič and Yves Lampaert escaped. Moments later, Dylan van Baarle sneaked away too. Jasper Stuyven was the next to attack. When Wout van Aert and Stefan Küng powered away, it was definitely up to van der Poel to react but he had to bow his head.

He was happy for his countryman to take the victory in Paris-Roubaix.

“I know him a little bit. It’s well deserved. It’s someone I don’t begrudge victory. I’ve shared rooms with him a couple of times at the world championships. When Dylan went, I had already reacted a few times. I hoped that somebody else would do it but nobody was able to do so. I kept fighting in the final 30 km but it was mostly on character,” van der Poel said.

Much earlier, van der Poel was in trouble as he was in the second group when the peloton split into two big groups after 48km of racing. His team managed to bring him back into contention.

“It was a weird situation. I didn’t know if we would be able to come back but I didn’t panic. I was at the back of the peloton and didn’t feel like there were full-on echelons. Suddenly, half of the peloton was gone. We had to chase them for a very long time. The team managed to take care of that really nicely. I ended up riding in a really good situation but just didn’t have the legs I hoped for today.”