Paris is worth the trouble: How Van der Poel aims for a revenge of epic proportions in the 2024 Olympics Cycling

Paris is worth the trouble: How Van der Poel aims for a revenge of epic proportions in the 2024 Olympics

Paris is worth the trouble: How Van der Poel aims for a revenge of epic proportions in the 2024 Olympics

A holiday, that's what Mathieu van der Poel has more than earned after a busy period for him. The Dutchman has earned a new pair of pajamas in the form of the rainbow jersey for the coming thirteen months, but he left Scotland after his mountain bike crash with a small hangover. That hangover could well bring him success in 2024, similar to Wollongong, we note.

After Van der Poel finished his spring 2023 with a resounding victory in Paris-Roubaix, he picked up the thread again on June 10th in Dwars door het Hageland. With the Baloise Belgium Tour, Tour de France, a training period in Spain to put the finishing touches towards Glasgow, and the two World Championships, followed two busy months, in which the Dutchman achieved his great goal: becoming world champion on the road.

Besides the physical strain that such a period brings, the mental aspect should not be underestimated. Whether it's battling against the Jumbo-Visma block during the Dutch Championships, his illness - and thus lesser form - and lack of success in the Tour, Van der Poel must always and everywhere answer questions, and there are always those expectations. Primarily from himself.

Paris is worth the trouble: How Van der Poel aims for a revenge of epic proportions in the 2024 Olympics

Van der Poel spoke of an 'almost complete' career after his World Championship title

All the more impressive is that he and his Alpecin-Deceuninck team can keep focusing on the goals that are close to his heart, where he really took a step forward in 2023. After a relatively anonymous Tour de France, Van der Poel did not let himself lose his head. In the Spanish sun, he prepared for the World Championship in Scotland with training alongside Greg Van Avermaet and fellow countryman Jan Maas. "Mathieu is ready, he was going full speed," the latter told this site two days before the World Championship.

The main character himself didn't show his hand at the Novotel near Edinburgh airport, after he had already seen that the course suited him during the recon. "I did what I had to do, so in that sense everything went well. I don't feel like I'm better than in the Tour, but maybe that will suddenly change on Sunday. We'll see," he concluded Friday before the road race.

Well, we don't need to tell you much more about the race and result in Glasgow. However, it is interesting to emphasize what was going through the Dutchman's head in the final kilometers of the race: revenge, referring to what happened that day before the 2022 World Championship in Wollongong. "I was really down then, it was not a fun period. The fact that I am now becoming world champion makes my career almost complete," Van der Poel beamed after his victory.

Paris is worth the trouble: How Van der Poel aims for a revenge of epic proportions in the 2024 Olympics

Much has been said and written, but after Australia, the switch in Van der Poel flipped. After the plank at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, the widely discussed incident in Sydney was one too many, which partly enabled him to focus on the races still missing from his palmares in 2023: Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix and the World Championship. You call that "coming back stronger - and striking harder."

"Almost complete," he said right after his world title on the road. The next gap on the honors list is the Olympic Games, a race that has been very high on his wish list for several years. So, VDP focused on mountain biking just two days after his World Championship stunt, with the Mountain Biking World Championship scheduled only six days after the title fight in Glasgow.

Is competing in the Olympic Games more important than winning? Not for Van der Poel

They often say that participating in the Olympic Games is more important than winning, but that doesn't apply to Van der Poel. But to participate, you must have a starting ticket. That was, according to him, the only reason the Dutchman went to Tweed Valley for the World Championship mountain biking, although U23 rider Tom Schellekens almost certainly secured an Olympic starting ticket on Friday. "Mathieu jokingly texted me that he might as well go watch on Saturday," said national coach Gerben de Knegt.

In the end, he did appear at the start, with the goal of just enjoying the ride and, according to De Knegt, closing off a "fun week" in Glentress Forest. "This is the first time Mathieu has ridden with a dropper post," he explained before the race. "Top ten, top fifteen: then Mathieu has done very well."

Paris is worth the trouble: How Van der Poel aims for a revenge of epic proportions in the 2024 Olympics

Starting from the fifth row, Van der Poel began his World Championship with a focused look, but at the first passage, there was no trace of the Dutchman to be found. "Mathieu has crashed," we heard whispers here and there, then suddenly a Dutch shirt came cycling past with blood on the knee and face. Van der Poel, but fortunately, De Knegt quickly reassured us. "It's shit, but he's okay."

Surely, the protagonist dove into the Alpecin-Deceuninck camper with his tail between his legs, where he came out a good half hour later to explain. Judging by his words, he must have taken a look in the mirror in the mobile home because he was mostly angry. At himself, mind you. "I'm in a bad mood because it's my fault again. I slipped on the easiest part of the course. This was unnecessary."

Why the mountain bike again? Because it's Mathieu van der Poel!

Similar words were uttered by De Knegt. "This was crap. I did swear a bit, yes. It takes away the euphoria of last Sunday and the fun week that followed," said the head coach, exactly the same as his protégé. What the two did not know at that moment was that online there was already a lot of tweeting and fuss: why the mountain bike?

Van der Poel is not someone who opts for the path of least resistance, and for him, Paris is worth the trouble. "What sets him apart is his ability to achieve what often appears unattainable," observed team boss Philip Roodhooft, whose team leader had refuted criticism along those lines just moments earlier. Coach De Knegt also displayed confidence. "Based on what we've seen this week, if he dedicates the necessary time and effort, success is within reach. Navigating his schedule will be a challenge, but one thing is for certain: we're not aiming for a tenth-place finish in Paris."

"I will draw strength from this again; this makes me stronger," sounded defiant from Van der Poel himself, who shrugged off the mountain bike criticism. Even though the road race course in the French capital should fit him like a glove in 2024. "It doesn't influence my plans on the mountain bike. I must thank Schellekens for that. He secured the Olympic spot on Friday, so that's a blessing in disguise. Paris, that's the goal. Anyone who thinks I can't do this, I want to prove them wrong." Because in the French capital, revenge can be taken in 2024 for the debacle of Tokyo. And this time, he really doesn't want to miss the plank.

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