"The advantage we have is that the whole team rides for me"; this is what Mathieu van der Poel said after his Tour of Flanders victory Cycling

"The advantage we have is that the whole team rides for me"; this is what Mathieu van der Poel said after his Tour of Flanders victory

"The advantage we have is that the whole team rides for me"; this is what Mathieu van der Poel said after his Tour of Flanders victory

Mathieu van der Poel managed to clinch his third Tour of Flanders victory on Sunday. The Dutchman from Alpecin-Deceuninck shattered the competition on the Koppenberg, then embarked on a long solo ride towards Oudenaarde. Afterwards, he took plenty of time to speak with all the press, both local and international, fulfilling one of his duties.

Another stellar performance in the Tour of Flanders. That's quite the record you're setting.

"It's almost a shame about that first Tour (laughing, when Van der Poel finished fourth and thus, for the only time, off the podium, ed.), but I'm incredibly happy. It's quite unique to win the Tour as the reigning world champion. It doesn't get much better than this; I'm going to try to really enjoy this."

Mathieu, those are incredible numbers. Did you ever imagine this?

"No, but that's true for everything. I thought I was just going to cycle-cross, actually. My career was already a success when I became world champion, but it just keeps getting better. Normally, I'm not one for statistics; it's all a bonus. So, I'm not really focused on records, I just want to get the best out of myself."

You are making history, though. Are you aware of that?

"Not really. We're just after the race and I'm completely fucked, to be honest. So, it's going to take some time to realize what I've done, but that will come."

It seems you have some adversaries. On the last time up the Oude Kwaremont, you got beer thrown at you again.

"I was winning the race, I couldn't care less."

Despite those incidents, do you still see the Tour of Flanders as the most beautiful classic?

"Absolutely. It's my favorite race of the year. It has been since I first rode it. The race is very dear to my heart."

How tough was it?

"I was totally spent at the end; it even started to feel a bit like Harrogate (where Van der Poel bonked in a winning position at the 2019 World Championship, ed.). Even eating didn't help anymore; I was completely drained. Luckily, my lead was enough, but I was nowhere near the wattages I wanted to ride."

Have you ever been so exhausted?

"Harrogate, because of the conditions it was similar. It was a crawl to the finish line. The rain meant you had to go full throttle on every cobbled climb just to get up properly. It was incredibly tough; I didn't even have the energy to think about my usual celebration. I don't think I've ever been so happy to see the final kilometer. But I wasn't afraid it would go wrong."

How did you experience the Koppenberg?

"I knew that climb was going to be crucial. We had been attacked from all sides well before the finish, so I asked the team to control the situation until the Koppenberg. With the rain, I knew it would be a key point, so I took the lead there to stay out of the scramble. At the top, I already had a nice gap."

Does the Koppenberg deserve its place in this race in such a way?

"I think so. This time it was extremely slippery; I also struggled to transfer my power on the bike."

It's not exactly your mountain, though.

(laughs) "In road races, yes, but definitely not in cyclo-cross. I've never seen it so slippery. That made it the toughest Tour I've ridden. Once I was solo in the lead, there was no turning back."

mathieu van der poel

Did you expect the Koppenberg to be that challenging?

"I don't usually scout the course before this race, but you can find plenty of footage from wet years in the past. Mostly, from my cyclo-cross experience, I knew it could get really slippery."

You just mentioned asking the team to control the race up to the Koppenberg. That worked out well since they all rode a very strong race.

"The advantage we have is that the whole team rides for me. That actually makes it quite easy, and I know they give 110 percent. We expected early attacks from other teams, but our guys did an incredible job keeping everything in check. That's all I could ask for because at a certain point, only the strongest remain."

Was it a surprise that you managed to keep it under control?

"Not really. At one point, a slightly larger group broke away, which I managed to catch up to on the Valkenberg. However, we didn't face any critical situations, so I can only compliment the guys: we came here with a plan, and it was executed perfectly."

What did you think when Pedersen and Jorgenson started attacking so early?

"Mads's attack was maybe a bit strange, I'd say. He did well, but his move with Gianni Vermeersch felt like a kamikaze action. After his crash, he probably wasn't feeling top-notch, and that was his way of helping his team, but we'd have to hear it from him."

What was your reaction to seeing Mads, Jasper Stuyven, and Wout van Aert crash?

"I had just come back from training and had the TV on for five minutes, but it was really awful to see. I feel for all the guys who crashed hard there. I'm not close with Wout, but we're always mentioned together, and I know what he's done to be ready for these races. It must be really hard for him."

How good were you yourself?

"I was better in the E3 Saxo Classic than in the Tour, but it's hard to compare them. This is eighty kilometers longer, and the conditions were tough, so I think no one had their best legs."

Did you place any specific focus in your preparation?

"I trained more than I ever have before, but mainly didn't make any rash decisions. It's working now, but that's no guarantee for the future. There are many ways to peak form, and we're still learning."

What does your recovery look like now?

"I've consumed as much sugar as possible; that was step one. Now, I'll need a few days to truly recover, but we'll have to take it day by day."

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