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Tour de France at center for Mathieu van der Poel: ‘It’s better for me to focus on one grand tour’

Dutch ace clicks back into race mode at World Cup Hulst this weekend ahead of 'cross worlds, spring classics, MTB, and Tour de France.

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Mathieu van der Poel learned some grand tour lessons in 2022.

Van der Poel isn’t likely to attempt an ambitious grand tour double next season after Giro d’Italia fatigue saw him nosedive out of the Tour de France this summer.

“I think it’s just better for me to focus on one grand tour next year,” Van der Poel told the media during a pre-cyclocross season conference.

“I never say never, but next year the focus will be on completing the Tour de France. It is almost certain that I will ride there.”

Also read: Power analysis: Van der Poel takes bronze at gravel worlds

Van der Poel blazed through his Giro d’Italia this spring, winning the opening stage, wearing the maglia rosa, and entering new terrain with a monster ride through the Trentino mountains.

But his return to the Tour de France just five weeks later never got out of top gear. Van der Poel started strong and soon started sliding backward before pulling out ahead of stage 11.

“I don’t really know the exact cause. It’s a combination of a number of things. I had never finished a grand tour [before the Giro], and afterward I didn’t feel very good. I just didn’t know what to expect then, so I went on an altitude camp anyway,” he said.

“I think the accumulation of those things caused me to not be that good after all.”

Cyclocross season starts Sunday: ‘When I start, I want to win’

Van der Poel clicks back into his racing gears Sunday at his home cyclocross World Cup round in Hulst.

The Dutch race will be his first ‘cross in 11 months after injuries derailed his 2021-22 winter. But that’s not quashed the four-time world champion’s confidence after a long training block in Spain’s “Costa Blanca.”

“When I start, I want to win,” Van der Poel said of his ‘cross debut. “That was the case in the past and it is still the goal today. Cyclocross is no longer my main activity, but it is the intention to win.”

Also read: Here’s when Van der Poel and Van Aert face off this winter

Sunday marks the start of a long multi-discipline season for Van der Poel.

The 27-year-old already sketched out a stacked cyclocross season in advance of the ‘cross worlds, and hinted this week he plans to lead his WorldTour-bound Alpecin-Deceuninck team through the Italian and Flemish road classics in the months afterward. He’ll then switch bikes for a series of mountain bike world cups ahead of the Tour de France.

The “mega worlds” in Glasgow next summer will see Van der Poel forced to balance road and mountain bike priorities at the multi-discipline event.

Van der Poel will no doubt want to keep the drama on the race course in Glasgow. A shock altercation with two teenage girls ahead of the Wollongong worlds road race this September saw him arrested and subsequently fined.

“That was a sad incident. However, I moved past it very quickly,” he said. “All I want to say about it is that there are two sides to the story and that my story is completely different from what has been told there.”