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Van der Poel spent another day out the back when he was expected to be blasting on the front on Thursday, another chapter in a first-week that’s dragging the Dutchman down.
“Several times I thought about getting off. It was not a nice day. I have nothing more to add,” Van der Poel told reporters on the Longwy hilltop.
Alpecin-Deceuninck’s all-terrain ace is mulling his options after he crumbled on the cobbles Wednesday and went AWOL on the full-steam classics-style stage Thursday.
“If I went home now, it would start to annoy me after two days,” he said Thursday. “I was able to continue. But if it’s still like this Friday, I don’t think I’m going to hang on for another day. But [my form] could turn.
“It’s useless to continue riding if you’re dropped at the first climb, because something isn’t right, but also because I don’t know what’s wrong.”
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Team staff will be watching closely while Van der Poel switches into survival mode for the first mountaintop finish of the Tour on Friday.
“We’ll try to remain calm and continue to work. Maybe it will get better in a few days, but maybe not. Then we’ll make the decision to send him home,” team boss Christoph Roodhooft told Wielerflits after he watched Van der Poel roll home 10 minutes back Thursday.
‘I knew the Tour-Giro wasn’t going to be an easy combination’
Van der Poel turned up for the Tour just five weeks after a Giro debut that saw him win stages, wear pink, and rip up the rulebook with a mega-ride through the mountains.
Something went wrong when Van der Poel hung up his race bike to focus on a reboot after he rumbled into Verona in May.
“I haven’t done too little in terms of training, but maybe I did in terms of intensity. I also went to altitude, perhaps that was taxing for the body. In retrospect, it’s easy to draw conclusions,” he said.
The Giro-Tour double is known for being one of the most taxing feats in modern cycling. Classification riders rarely try it now stages are raced harder and pressure mounts faster with every passing year.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy combination. But I didn’t expect to be so disappointing myself,” Van der Poel said. “For me, three weeks of racing is different from racing one race – that also applies to me mentally.
“In the Giro, there was that chance of pink and I wanted to finish the whole race anyway. But now here we are. It’s not fun like this.”
The rest day Monday will be front of Mathieu’s mind when he takes on the extra-steep summit of the Super Planche des Belles Filles on Friday.
“I can’t change things now. I’m still going to try, against my better judgment. I’m hoping for recovery.”