No pressure, less back problems: Mathieu van der Poel is racing road worlds to win
Van der Poel back from burnout and bullish about road worlds: 'I wouldn't go to Australia if I didn't think I could become world champion.'
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Mathieu van der Poel is backing himself to become road world championships later this month.
Van der Poel spoke with The Paddock F1 podcast and confirmed he’ll be racing to win the Wollongong road race on September 25 despite his recent burnout blowout and lack of race prep.
“I’m mainly training and riding some smaller races to prepare for the world championships in Australia now, which is a main goal. What comes next is still unknown – the focus is on the world championships, I did everything I could to be in order,” Van der Poel said.
“I haven’t ridden many top preparation races in recent weeks, so it’s hard to estimate. But I wouldn’t go to Australia if I didn’t think I could become world champion. It’s quite a move, but it’s cool.”
‘I don’t feel pressure anymore’
Van der Poel has been treading water since he bailed out of the Tour de France.
A stacked summer spanning the Giro d’Italia, a trip to altitude, and then the Tour left the Dutchman burned out and off-form.
Despite racing less than a handful of days, primarily at low-key criteriums, in the months since France, the Dutch federation confirmed Van der Poel would lead a powerful pack including Bauke Mollema and 2021 runner-up Dylan van Baarle in Wollongong.
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Van der Poel’s white-and-orange armada will line up alongside Belgium and France as one of the leading nations for the Amstel Gold-style men’s road race this month. Meanwhile, several other rivals lose numbers to riders hunting UCI points for their trade teams or turning away from the long end-of-season flight.
Favorite’s status doesn’t see Van der Poel in a sweat.
“I don’t feel pressure anymore,” Van der Poel said. “I had that in the first few years, but now I never have any more stress before a competition. In the first years in cyclocross, I felt that pressure very much because I missed victory a few times. That was kind of in my head. But I’ve never had that feeling in recent years.”
Less back pain, more cyclocross
The malaise that fell over Van der Poel during the Tour is one of the Dutchman’s many derailments in recent seasons.
A back injury and knocked knee laid him up much of last year, and cut his cyclocross season to just one and a half races and a missed rainbow jersey defense.
With the worst of his injury woes in the rearview, Van der Poel plans to race “10 to 15 ‘crosses” this winter in preparation for a return to CX worlds competition on home soil in Hoogerheide in early February.
“I have to keep working to keep the back problem away. I have to spend a few hours in the gym to get and keep it under control. If I stop the rehab, it could be back soon,” he said.
“Now I have some work with it, but I can cycle completely pain-free again. That is the most important.”