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Mathieu van der Poel back in winner’s circle ahead of UCI Road World Championship

Victory in Belgium confirms Dutch star will be among the favorites for the rainbow jersey in Wollongong.

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Three wins in a row, punctuated by victory Wednesday at the Grand Prix de Wallonie, confirms Mathieu van der Poel is on form ahead of the UCI Road World Championships.

The Dutch rider took the flowers ahead of worlds favorite Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) and Movistar’s Gonzalo Serrano in the one-day Belgian classic to show he’s ready for a run at the rainbow jersey.

“I am very happy with this win,” Van der Poel said. “First I wanted to put on the sprint for Jasper [Philipsen], but apparently he didn’t feel 100 percent either. After I closed the last gap on the front runners, I started sprinting from the bend. Fortunately, I was able to continue that until the finish.”

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The victory comes on the heels of two wins at minor races in Belgium in his return at the end of August to racing after leaving the Tour de France without a victory.

The 27-year-old will headline the elite men’s Dutch squad in Wollongong, where he will be among the five-star favorites for victory.

There were question marks about Van der Poel during the past several weeks following a long absence from top-level racing. The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider took a break after the Tour, and has been preparing for the world championship in a series of training camps.

The victory Wednesday will put an answer to doubters if Van der Poel, who can hit out at a top level without a lot of racing, was going to be a factor in Wollongong.

Along with the likes of Wout van Aert, Michael Matthews, Girmay, and others, Van der Poel says he will be ready.

“We have done everything we can to belong to worlds favorites,” Van der Poel said.

Wednesday’s race finished atop a steep kicker at the Citadelle of Namur, ideal testing ground for worlds-bound fitness.

“I love these types of finales. The team has worked a lot today, so I’m happy to finish it. It was really a tough race. In the end, after such a climb, the strongest in the race really wins, and I’m glad I was.”

Van der Poel will travel to Australia and is expected to race the mixed team relay on September 21 in order to open up his legs before the elite men’s road race on September 25.

In his two previous starts in the elite men’s road race, Van der Poel was 43rd in Yorkshire in 2019, when he suffered a spectacular bonk late in the race. He was eighth last year in Leuven.