Matthew van der Poel will leave tomorrow and travel to Australia at the end of the Primus Classic. Immediately after Saturday’s race, the Dutchman will head to Brussels to take a flight that will take him to Dubai, and then a second plane bound for Sydney. The ride will take 25 hours, not so little for the rider who will be competing in the mixed relay next Wednesday.
Van der Paul decided at the Imola World Championships not to be there, then last year, despite Leuven’s back problems, and is now ready to find success at the Australian World Championships.
“It will be a different path compared to Imola. This race will be very similar to our Amstel Gold Race, and to win it you have to always be on top with the best.”
Van der Poel is satisfied with his condition, and before formalizing his World Cup participation, he waited last week to understand how his body was reacting. “I ran well and feel good and if it wasn’t for this I wouldn’t have decided to go to Australia. I knew it was time to make a decision, I hesitated for a while, but I think I can do something good in Wollongong.”
Choosing the final preparation for an event as important as the World Cup is not easy at all, and Van der Poel, unlike the other guys, decided to run closer to home than to go to Canada.
“I don’t know what the best combination is to prepare for the World Cup. After my Tour de France, which was undoubtedly disappointing, I knew I had to stop and start over. So I took a break in Spain, I started again, not physically but mentally and I think I did a good job.”
The Dutchman did an excellent job in the Giro d’Italia and his fights with Jermay lighted up the stages of the pink race. On the other hand, the tour went poorly and Van der Poel also considered taking part in the Vuelta. “I initially thought about the Giro-Vuelta duo and we talked about it seriously as a team. But in the end the Tour de France is very important for the team and that is why I went to France.”
Even today, Van der Poel wonders and thinks about what went wrong with the Tour de France. “Every now and then I think back to that round and where we went wrong. The only thing that comes to mind is that after the Giro I went to heights and that probably wasn’t what my body needed at that moment. Height can sometimes hurt and the benefits don’t always come.”
Van der Paul thinks he is one of the favorites for the World Cup, but the competition is high and the Dutchman thinks the strongest is Wout van Aert. “For me the strongest rider is Van Aert. We have all seen what he is capable of and I think he is the strongest rider at the moment. Of course Belgium will also get a Remco because when you have a rider like him you always have an ace up your sleeve. Pogacar can do a good job and I think Matthews can too. But the world championship is always a strange race and the win can go to a rider you don’t expect.”
Alaphilippe has been forced into retirement in Spain, but Van der Poel feels no desire to be left out of potential winners. “If Alaphilippe had finished the Vuelta, I would definitely have included him among the top candidates, but we can’t rule out his victory, he is a very strong rider. Then among the favorites we can not even exclude Jeremy. It will be a very open race and winning will not be easy for anyone.”