On Sunday Mathieu van der Poel will start his cyclo-cross season in Dendermonde after a week’s delay and in his first race he will fight it out with his ‘arch enemy’ Wout van Aert. In a Zoom interview with Nico Dick of WeilerFlits, the World champion looked ahead to his first ‘cross of this winter and explained more about his crash and admits that he feared for his cross season.
There will be battle in Dendermonde (without fans) on Boxing Day, but who will win?
On November the 25th, Mathieu van der Poel injured his left knee in a training crash. “I wasn’t even training hard,” said Van der Poel. “It was an innocent ride in the woods with friends. Until suddenly my front wheel slipped in a place where I didn’t expect it. With my left knee I ended up on some gravel, which caused a serious open wound. I knew right away that it wasn’t right.”
Twelve days off the bike for Van der Poel
The World cyclo-cross champion had to stay off the bike for twelve days. “At first about four days, but when I started again it was clear that it needed more time. I then remained without the bike for another five or six days. A setback that even made me fearful for my cyclo-cross season,” he admitted. “Certainly because it is such a short winter. Fortunately, things have gone in the right direction in the last few weeks.” The knee has almost recovered, he said. “I can do almost everything again. So that’s fine.”
Mathieu’s back is still bad
The Alpecin-Fenix rider continues to struggle with persistent back problems. “Frustrating, yes, and it’s still not optimal, but still… the back is also holding up for the time being. I can now say that, thanks to that extra week without competition, I did everything I could to be as good as possible.” That will be necessary, he realises. “Because the level is high. And especially because Wout van Aert made an impression in the races he already rode. Nice to see, by the way. I didn’t watch the entire races, but I did watch bits and pieces. I don’t know if I have the legs yet to follow him, but I’m going to try anyway. Maybe I’ll surprise myself. If that doesn’t work, I should be able to be part of the group behind him.”
Van Aert won in Dendermonde last year
Last year, Van der Poel was beaten by Van Aert by almost 3 minutes in Dendermonde. “Albeit in a real mud fest. That was extreme. But that can happen when so much rain falls. I suppose it will be less bad on Sunday. I am curious what has changed about the course.”
Adrie van der Poel was also quite handy at cyclo-cross – World cross champ in 1996 and national champion six times
Father Adrie spoke about three crosses that Van der Poel would need to ride to win the cyclo-cross World championships again. Mathieu himself sees it slightly differently. “Or is that to keep the pressure off? No, I’m not participating in that. Normally I would also say that I immediately want to participate for gain. But the way in which Wout started his winter was tougher than I expected. Hence some reservations.”
Van Aert will be looking for a repeat of last year’s win in Dendermonde
Is Mathieu still as excited about cyclo-cross as he used to be? “Admittedly, a little less than before. That’s what you get when you get in so late. The leaderboards are gone, only the championships are left as a big prize to grab. That’s because of that long road season. I needed that rest. But it now feels strange not to dive into cross until the end of December. But the love isn’t over, just to be clear. Preferably with an audience.”
‘The love isn’t over’
The UCI World Cup Race in Dendermonde Will Run, but Without Fans
The World Cup cyclo-cross in Dendermonde will go ahead on Boxing Day. Organizer Jurgen Mettepenningen announced on Thursday afternoon that he succeeded in organising the cyclo-cross race without an audience on Sunday, December 26. The planned program will not change.
Dendermonde’20 was a mud bath
On Wednesday evening, the Belgian government imposed stricter corona restrictions, the public are welcome to sports events until Sunday morning, then no more. The Superprestige in Diegem has had to cancel, but Dendermonde will run and we will see the first confrontation between World champion Mathieu van der Poel, man in shape Wout van Aert and British super talent Tom Pidcock.
Don’t forget about Tom Pidcock – The British champions will also be in Dendemonde
“Financially it’s a heavy blow,” said Mettepenningen about fans not being allowed to attend. “But I didn’t want to just throw in the towel. In the end I managed to let the World Cup cross in Dendermonde take place, thanks in part to the extra support from Flanders Classics and the UCI. The city of Dendermonde also contributed.” The prize money for the riders will remain the same and roughly 5,000 fans who have already bought a ticket will get their money back.
2020 Dendermonde cyclo-cross
# Thanks to Nico Dick of WeilerFlits for the quotes from Matheu van der Poel. #
Let battle commence!