Flanders wildcard invites open the door for van der Poel to race

Fans are eager to see what the multi-discipline star Mathieu van der Poel can do at Belgium's biggest bike race, Tour of Flanders.

Tour of Flanders organizers named seven wildcard Pro Continental teams on Wednesday to race the 2019 edition of “De Ronde.” One of those teams is Corendon-Circus, home to cyclocross world champion Mathieu van der Poel.

Anticipation is building to see the 24-year-old star race the major spring classics. He has proven himself year after year at the top echelons of international cyclocross. The Dutchman also won four UCI road races in 2018, plus the overall at Boucles de Mayenne and his national championships on the road.

As well as van der Poel’s team, Flanders Classics organizers invited three other Belgian teams to race Tour of Flanders on April 7: Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise and Wanty-Gobert. They also picked Direct Energie, home to defending champion Niki Terpstra, Vital Concept-B&B Hotels, Cofidis, and Roompot-Charles as wildcard teams. These seven outfits will join the 18 WorldTour teams that are automatically entered in the race.

“With last year’s winner Niki Terpstra leading his new team Direct Energie, he will be on the hunt to make it back-to-back wins,” said race director Scott Sunderland.

“Terpstra’s younger fellow Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel, the freshly crowned world champion cyclocross star, will be wanting to make history himself by following in the footsteps of his father Adrie, winner of the 1986 Tour of Flanders.”

On Monday, Flanders Classics also picked seven wildcards for Gent-Wevelgem, one week before Tour of Flanders on March 31. The slate is nearly identical apart from Wallonie Bruxelles taking the place of Vital Concept.