Road

Mathieu van der Poel will race Tour de France ‘for sponsors’

Olympic Games will remain center of 2021 season for Dutch superstar.

Mathieu van der Poel indicated yet again he will make his Tour de France debut in 2021, but added an important caveat — he’ll do it for the good of team backers.

Related:

The Olympic Games, rescheduled for the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, will remain at the center of his racing calendar for the coming season.

Yet the Tour will also play an important role, though he admitted in an interview with Sporza that he will start, but doesn’t know if he will be finishing it.

“The Tour de France is secondary to the Olympics,” van der Poel told Sporza. “I think I owe the sponsors my participation in the Tour, because, without them, there is no sport. Still, it’s going to be a bit of a headache because I won’t be to do what I’d like.”

With Alpecin-Fenix earning a starting spot in all the WorldTour races in 2021 after it won the ProTeam classification this season, the pressure will be on for van der Poel to race the Tour.

Van der Poel continues to straddle disciplines with smooth efficiency, jumping between cyclocross, mountain biking, and road racing, all the while resisting the pressure to pursue the more lucrative road scene with maximum focus.

The postponement of the 2020 Games into July and August 2021 will mean that van der Poel will try to balance his racing schedule between dirt and pavement going into the coming summer.

He even admitted that his chances of striking gold in mountain bike are somewhat diminished with the disrupted calendar and preparation.

“The cancelation of the Games was an inconvenience for me,” he said. “Last year, I was right where I wanted to be for the Olympics. I had raced almost all of the World Cups, and I knew where I was against my rivals, and I felt good. A year has passed and I’ve barely been on my mountain bike. It remains a big question mark. My dream of winning the Olympic medal is not over, but it will be more difficult.”

Van der Poel on his way to a dramatic victory at the 2020 Tour of Flanders. Luc Claessen/Getty Images

And speaking of sponsors, van der Poel confirmed he is under contract with Alpecin-Fenix through 2023. He doesn’t rule out changing teams some day, but said he didn’t consider signing with another team despite some reportedly succulent offers on the table. At Alpecin-Fenix, van der Poel has the freedom to mix and match his racing calendar that he might not on a major road team.

Van der Poel also said he had no regrets about skipping the 2020 worlds in Imola, a bet that paid off with his dramatic victory against arch-rival Wout van Aert at the Tour of Flanders.

“When I watched [the worlds] on TV, I knew it was too hard for me,” he said. “Maybe it would have been better than I had the worlds in my legs before Flanders, but after Tirreno-Adriatico, I could sense that I need some altitude training.”