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Despite being decked out in his kit, van der Poel told reporters at the start in Cluses that he would not be riding. He will now take a short break before getting ready for the Olympic Games, where he is set to contest the mountain bike event.
The Dutchman – who was making his debut at the Tour de France – lost the yellow jersey to a dominant Tadej Pogačar on Saturday’s mountainous stage to Le Grand-Bornand. Van der Poel picked up yellow when he claimed victory on stage 2, and he kept it longer than expected after pulling out one of his best time trial performances Wednesday.
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“With a stage like this, it was impossible against the real climbers to defend and it was also not my goal to go for the GC. It has been an amazing week for the team. We won two stages and we’ve had yellow for six days. It’s my first grand tour and I think we can be really happy about that,” van der Poel said of losing yellow.
“I will not start today. We decided with the team that it was in my best interests to quit the race and focus on the Olympics now. I’m going to take some time to recover from this first week.”
🚨 🇳🇱 @mathieuvdpoel will not be at the départ of the 9th stage!
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 4, 2021
Van der Poel had previously hoped to wait until after the Olympic Games to make his first appearance at the Tour de France. However, the delay to the competition caused by the coronavirus pandemic means he had to try both in the same year.
Many expected that van der Poel would depart the Tour de France early, but he has been cagey on if and when he would leave the race. With another big mountain stage to Tignes in store Sunday, and no yellow jersey to defend, he decided to call it quits.
He promised that he would be back and complete the full loop of France in 2022.
“We knew that it was going to be difficult for me, I have some other goals and because of coronavirus, it was impossible for me to do the whole Tour and be at my top game for Tokyo. It was an amazing week and I’ll be back next year to go to Paris,” van der Poel said.