The mighty Dutch worlds team is taking on water a few days before the UCI road world championships begin this weekend in Belgium.
Defending world time trial champion Anna van der Breggen confirmed she will not defend her title against the clock on Monday, while Mathieu van der Poel remains uncertain he will race the elite men’s road race after back pain flared up again following his emphatic victory over the weekend.
Van der Breggen confirmed Tuesday she will not race on the 30.3km course around Bruges to defend her rainbow stripes in what will be her final world championships. She’s expected to race in the road race and retire following Paris-Roubaix in October before becoming a sport director next season, but her final schedule remains uncertain.
“Anna had too much on her plate, and sometimes the bucket runs over,” said SD Worx team manager Danny Stam in Algemeen Dagblad.
Van der Breggen, who pulled out of the European championships due to low form, underwent a series of tests, and the team decided she would not be up to the challenge of performing well in the test against the clock. She is still penciled for the women’s road race on September 25.
“It’s obvious that the preparation is not ideal for that either,” Stam said. “But with Anna, you never know. She has so much class.”
Her late-exit leaves the powerful Dutch team in a quandary because rules say that she cannot be replaced because her spot was designated due to her title as defending world champion. The Dutch will race with three starters, including Olympic time trial champion and two-time world TT champion Annemiek van Vleuten, former TT world champion Ellen van Dijk, and Riejanne Markus, recently fifth at the European championships.
The 31-year-old pulled out of last week’s European championships after citing fatigue coming out of the Ceratizit Challenge in Spain.
Mathieu van der Poel will decide on worlds next week
Van der Poel, meanwhile, remains undecided if he will be able to race the world championships on September 26. The long, 270km course will require maximum effort, and van der Poel said back pain flared up after he won the 183km Antwerp Port Epic on Sunday in a breakaway.
Van der Poel is officially included on the Dutch men’s worlds team, but coaches said van der Poel will decide if he’s up to taking on the demands of the seven-hour road race after he competes in three final warm-up races at the Primus Classic on Saturday, Gooikse Pijl on Sunday, and GP de Denain on Tuesday.
“The selection is not yet 100 percent final,” said Dutch national coach Koos Moerenhout on the federation website. “We are hopeful Mathieu can race, and he will have to decide after the weekend if he can handle the load and he can handle the work toward the world championships.
“Of course, it makes a big difference if he can be there in good condition because he would be considered a favorite,” he said. “We have many riders who can perform well on this terrain, but with Mathieu there, we obviously can see our chances improved.”
The Dutch team also lost Tom Dumoulin, who was slated to race the time trial Sunday, due to injury sustained after colliding with a vehicle during a training crash.
Also Wednesday, van der Poel’s Alpecin-Fenix team confirmed he is on the start list to race Paris-Roubaix on October 3.
Netherlands elite men’s road race team for world championships:
Dylan Van Baarle
Mathieu van der Poel
Danny van Poppel
Jos van Emden
— Alpecin-Fenix Cycling Team (@AlpecinFenix) September 15, 2021