Mathieu van der Poel has big plans for 2021, with the Tour de France, Tokyo Olympics, and UCI cyclocross world championships all looming on the horizon.
Van der Poel, perhaps the most versatile male cyclist of this generation, told Dutch website Wielerflits that he plans to target all three races next season — an ambitious set of goals for even an athlete at his level.
“I am supposed to make the combination,” van der Poel said. “The problem is that there is not much choice. And yes, I also assume that I will start in the Tour de France with the aim of reaching Paris. I do not intend to leave any earlier. But I realize that it is not an ideal combination.”
Indeed, targeting both the Olympic cross-country mountain bike race as well as the Tour de France could create a scheduling headache for van der Poel. Right now, the 2021 Tour de France is scheduled to run June 26 through July 18, and the rescheduled men’s Olympic MTB race is slated to be held on Monday, July 27.
That gives van der Poel just nine days of recovery from his first grand tour to prepare for a run at Olympic gold.
Plus, the MTB World Cup schedule has three rounds that overlap with the brunt of the spring classics and pre-Tour stage races. Van der Poel hasn’t raced his mountain bike since 2019.
Van der Poel acknowledged the challenges posed by the packed schedules for both disciplines.
“I’m a bit scared of it. It took me a long time to get to the top of mountain biking and I mainly succeeded by riding a lot on that mountain bike and training specifically on it,” he said. “With that entire calendar gone, I feel like I’ve lost a year. There is a preliminary schedule to ride two, three World Cups in 2021 to grab some points and limit the damage. But that is of course all subject to change.”
And van der Poel has definite goals for his Tour de France debut. The Dutchman has yet to start a grand tour, and with his strengths in sprints, flats, and hilly terrain, he has the skills to perhaps challenge for the green points jersey.
“Winning a ride is the goal. That green [jersey] will be there somewhere in the back of [my] mind,” he said. “Imagine that an opportunity suddenly arises… But it is certainly not one of my goals beforehand.”
Van der Poel is barely a month out of the 2020 road season — taking some two weeks more to get his ‘cross game going compared with rival Wout van Aert — and will be picking up his road wheels again when the WorldTour calendar resumes in February.
Now in the thick of a reduced 2020-2021 cyclocross calendar, the Dutch phenom was not shy about expressing his multi-disciplinary ambitions. He’s targeting a win at the 2021 UCI world cyclocross championships in Ostend at the end of January.
“The World Championship in Ostend. That is the only thing. I have no rankings to defend. So nothing is allowed outside the championships. But I repeat: I start in every ‘cross [race] to win. Without pressure,“ he said.