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Mathieu Van der Poel switches into road cycling mode

The multi-faceted star changes gear from ’cross to pavement this week ahead of the spring classics

Mathieu van der Poel added another rainbow jersey to his growing collection, and headed straight to the Swiss Alps.

Altitude training? No. It was a bit of breather on a ski holiday. For a rider who’s good at just about everything, he’s also quite an accomplished skier. While most teams would frown on their star rider hitting the slopes ahead of an Olympic year, van der Poel got the thumbs up from Alpecin-Fenix brass.

“In mountain biking, Mathieu takes risks that are of a completely different order,” team manager Christoph Roodhooft told Het Laatste Nieuws. “He is wise enough to know what he can and cannot do, and moreover, he can ski very well. Just like everyone else who works hard, he deserves a little vacation now and then.”

Ever the pro, he booked a hotel at 1,800m. A little altitude benefit even while skiing doesn’t hurt ahead of his busy spring calendar.

After another wildly successful cyclocross season, capped by his third career world title in Dübendorf earlier this month, van der Poel is set to return to road racing this week.

The Alpecin-Fenix rider races on the road at the Volta ao Algarve starting Wednesday for the first time since the DH Famenne Ardenne classic in October, where he won the bunch sprint behind breakaway riders.

Like everything he does, Van der Poel has mapped out an ambitious spring calendar, with several new races in a mix of stage races and one major one-day classics.

With the Olympic Games and mountain biking remaining a central focus for van der Poel in 2020, his relatively brief road commitment this spring sees him taking on new challenges at Strade Bianche and Paris-Roubaix, both for the first time. There is also a WorldTour stage race debut at Catalunya in March.

With Alpecin-Fenix seeing a fresh round of race invitations, new additions to their 2020 schedule include Strade Bianche, Milano-Sanremo, Catalunya, Paris-Roubaix and Flèche Wallonne.

Much has been made about van der Poel’s absence from last year’s Roubaix. Team officials said they turned down a team invite in 2019, preferring to leave the punishing pavé of Roubaix as a new challenge for this season. Van der Poel is so big, he can largely pick his schedule, and race organizers are happy to see him in their events.

The Dutch superstar will also take on the major Italian spring one-day races as well as tiptoe into the Ardennes, with a first-ever start at Flèche Wallonne. After that, van der Poel will take another short break, and then prepare for his assault on the Tokyo Olympic Games in mountain biking in August.

The anticipation will be high to see if van der Poel can match his stunning road performances in 2019, when he won Amstel Gold, Brabantse Pijl and Dwars door Vlaanderen.

>> Van der Poel’s tentative 2020 spring schedule

Volta ao Algarve (February 19-23)
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (February 29)
Strade Bianche (March 7)
Milano-Sanremo (March 21)
Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (March 23-29)
Dwars door Vlaanderen (April 1)
Ronde van Vlaanderen (April 5)
Paris-Roubaix (April 12)
Brabantse Pijl (April 15)
Amstel Gold Race (April 19)
Flèche Wallonne (April 22)