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Van der Poel considers petitioning for Tour de France start slot

With a summer on the mountain bike off the agenda, van der Poel speculates over a Tour de France start.

Mathieu van der Poel has switched his sights to the Tour de France as he re-shuffles his season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Van der Poel’s planned starts at the classics may still go ahead this fall, but his second dream — of Olympic Gold in the Tokyo mountain bike race — will have to wait another year after news that the Olympic Games are postponed to 2021. So now, the Dutch wunderkind is eyeing the Tour de France, even though his Alpecin-Fenix team hasn’t received an invite to take the start line.

“If the Tour is ridden this year, maybe we can lobby to get in there,” van der Poel said, Sunday. “I think we would have an exceptional Tour de France with many other types of riders I would certainly be open to that.”

Belgian team Alpecin-Fenix didn’t receive the wildcard invite that they required to start the Tour this summer. Instead, ASO gave the invites to French teams Arkea-Samsic, Total-Direct Energie, and B&B Hotels-Vital Concept when they confirmed their Tour selections in January.

At the start of the season, a grand tour had not been on van der Poel’s agenda as he had been expecting to spend the summer honing his mountain bike skills. However, now that he is certain the Tokyo Games won’t take place for another year, he has time to focus on the tarmac.

“It was good to do mountain biking this year and then make my debut next year in a grand tour, maybe in the Tour. That would have been nice,” van der Poel told Sporza. “Now we have to adjust… Normally I will go mountain biking next year.”

While van der Poel’s hopes for starting the Tour this year are beyond slim, he was a definite to start at the Tour of Flanders last weekend before the race was postponed due to coronavirus concerns. Race organizers Flanders Classics are now among many scrambling to find a start slot for their event in the fall.

“I also hear rumors about a Tour of Flanders in the autumn, but I don’t commit to anything,” van der Poel said. “I wait until it is final and then we can build up again.”

“I hope I can definitely have some competition on the road or mountain bike this year. That is really necessary for the sport. The cyclocross season will be a bit secondary to the road and mountain bike for me. It is hoped that it’s a fun calendar that everyone can use.”

However, like everyone else, van der Poel understands the priority is on ending the pandemic and ensuring global health and safety.

“The uncertainty about corona outweighs the uncertainty about the calendar,” he said. “Corona is now decisive, the rest is secondary. That must be resolved before we can make other plans.”