Pavement and cobbles are front-and-center for Mathieu van der Poel in 2020. And that’s as well as a shot at a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics mountain bike race.
“The focus is on the Olympics,” van der Poel told Sporza, Sunday. “Tokyo is my dream and after that, a grand tour is the big and new challenge. I want to go to the Vuelta.”
And as if that’s not enough for the 24-year-old Dutchman, he also aims to defend his stripes at the cyclocross world championships in Dubendorf, Switzerland, early February, and then move on to the pave of Belgium and France in April.
“The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. The week in which those classics are ridden is the most important week in the spring for many road cyclists, and that is no different for Mathieu,” Christoph Roodhooft, manager of van der Poel’s Corendon-Circus team, told NOS.
And it’s not just one-day cyclocross championships, spring classics, and olympic road races where we may see van der Poel next season. After making an attempt at Olympic gold on the mountain bike in Tokyo in late July, his Corendon-Circus team hope to line up at the Vuelta a Espana in August.
“[The Vuelta] is a specific goal for our team,” Roodhoft said. The Belgian team’s start slot is far from guaranteed however, and is reliant on them gaining a wildcard place. Though the team has not ridden a grand tour before, the Vuelta’s start in the Netherlands may give them a helping hand in 2020.
With such a long season in the pipeline, something has to give, and that has to be the world champion’s early-season cyclocross program.
“In the winter, the cyclocross world championships [in February] is his only and biggest goal,” Roodhoft said. “He will try to win other crosses, but the intention is to bring him to that world championship as economically as possible.”
This slow build to the February world championships means that van der Poel will make fewer appearances at ‘cross races in the Superprestige series and World Cup. “We have already given up the rankings a little, with the exception of the DVV Trophy,” said Roodhooft. “That will relieve the pressure on him a little.”
That’s not to say van der Poel won’t be taking those few appearances seriously though, as he illustrated with a storming victory at his first cross race of the season, Sunday.
How will Roodhoft keep van der Poel motivated through such a long, dispersed set of priorities? “It must remain fun. If it is always must, must, must, then it cannot be sustained,” he explained.
Judging by his ease in the mud and sand and victory trick in the final lap at Ruddervoorde on Sunday, he’s having a lot of fun already.