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Van der Poel’s early season schedule in doubt

Health concerns in Romania put question mark over Dutchman's planned season restart at Sibiu Tour.

Dutch superstar Mathieu van der Poel is hoping to get his WorldTour season restarted the only way he knows how: with a win.

The Alpecin-Fenix rider’s first major goal of the resumed 2020 schedule is a victory on the white tracks of Strade Bianche. His plans for getting into top shape have been thrown into doubt. The 25-year-old intends to train at altitude in La Plagne, France, before getting back to racing at the Romanian 2.1-ranked Sibiu Tour on July 23-26.

However, with Romania seeing a second wave of coronavirus cases, a plan B may be required.

“The Romanian authorities have imposed a two-week self-isolation for anyone coming from either the Netherlands or Belgium,” Alpecin-Fenix manager Michael Cornelisse told AD.nl. “Flying between the Netherlands or Belgium and Romania is not yet possible. The restrictions in Romania may be eased quickly, but if the quarantine requirement remains applicable, the chance that Alpecin-Fenix ​​will appear at the start is small.”

The Sibiu Tour, also set to see Bora-Hansgrohe, CCC Team, and Israel Start-Up Nation development teams on the start line, is a key piece to van der Poel’s early-season preparations. Having been given the green light to race all the Italian classics, the Dutchman and his team are looking for victory at Strade Bianche, Milano Sanremo on August 8, and Il Lombardia on August 15.

Should all go as intended, the Alpecin-Fenix manager said the four-day Sibiu Tour followed by five days of rest should give van der Poel “enough racing rhythm to ride at the front in Strade Bianche.”

“The race in Romania is part of the Europe Tour and Alpecin-Fenix ​​can score points,” said Cornelisse. “But the main reason is mainly that van der Poel can ride into shape for Strade Bianche. The classic on the dirt roads is the first in a series of Italian classics that van der Poel rides to win.”

After his team missed out on wild-cards for the grand tours in 2020, the one-day races form the bedrock of van der Poel’s season, with monument success at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix his ultimate focus. After the Italian classics in August, he will return to Italy for the week-long Tirreno Adriatico before his challenge on the Ardennes and northern one-dayers through October.