“I feel like racing again,” Mathieu van der Poel opened his press conference on Thursday, two days before his first cyclo-cross race of the season in Hulst in the Netherlands. “Especially after last winter, which was different because of my back problems. But I’m having a lot of fun at training now. The initial plan was to get in the field a bit later, but on the team training camp I felt I was good enough to cross. Otherwise it would also be a very long period without competition. I look forward.”
How good are you?
Mathieu van der Poel: “I think I have the fitness to win. But of course you are stuck with the starting position. I am told that I will have to start on the fourth row in Hulst and this is a course on which it is difficult to overtake. But I don’t worry about it.”
Enforcing that good starting position is also important for the World Cup.
“Yes. That’s why my calendar is still open the weekend before the World Cup. If I need points, can I still drive? Although participation will not only depend on that.”
The World Cup is the big goal for you?
“Yes, if you come into the cross right now, you don’t really have a goal outside the World Cup. Pidcock and Van Aert have said the same thing. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to win the other races, of course. The World Cup will take place in Hoogerheide, which makes it extra special.”
How is your back?
“It remains a working point. I was a bit worried about that before the winter, but I did my cross training well. At the moment I have almost no problems, which was the case last year.”
Is cross country extra stressful for the back?
“Yes, you put a lot of power from the lower back during cyclocross, it’s a lot on and off the bike, you have to walk a lot. That is stressful anyway.”
Is it the intention to continue to combine three disciplines (road cycling, cross and mountain bike)?
“Yes, that should be possible. At the moment there are two mountain bike races on my agenda: Valkenburg (May 5) or Nove Mesto (May 12). But that is subject to change. In any case, I would have liked to do more mountain biking next year, with a view to the Olympic Games in Paris 2024, but that will be for the year after.”
Back to last year: do you now know why the Tour de France was disappointing?
“I then came out of the Giro, my first big round that I finished all the way. Afterwards I didn’t feel very well, but then we decided to go on an altitude training. That caused an accumulation that made me not okay in the Tour. I think it’s better for me to focus on one Grand Tour. For next year I will focus on the Tour, it is almost certain that I will ride it.”
Your hair is suddenly blonde: what happened there?
“My girlfriend made a mistake. Fortunately, I usually wear a helmet or a cap. And I don’t have to look at it myself.”