On Saturday, July 1st, the Tour de France will start in the Spanish city of Bilbao. The second and third stages of 'La Grande Boucle' will also take place in the south of France. It is not unlikely that Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has highlighted these first three stages in dark red in his personal road book, as they appear to be selective enough on paper to suit the versatile Dutchman. On Monday, June 5th, Van der Poel held an online press conference, and IDLProCycling.com was also present!
Recently, it was announced that 'MVDP' is preparing for the biggest cycling event in the world through races such as Dwars door het Hageland, the Baloise Belgium Tour and the National Championship. That means the 28-year-old all-rounder automatically skips the Tour of Switzerland. "Those other two races suit me better," the protagonist of the 2023 spring classics explains. "The Tour of Switzerland has two time trials and there's a lot of climbing involved. I'd rather compete somewhere where I have a chance of winning. Besides, I've been away from home for a while, so it's nice to be back in Belgium with my girlfriend, friends and family."
Van der Poel is enjoying himself during his altitude training camp in La Plagne
Following his upcoming return home, IDLProCycling.com wondered how someone as busy as Van der Poel keeps himself entertained during such a long altitude training camp. Long training camps abroad are not unfamiliar to Van der Poel. While a few years ago, he mainly undertook those to address his injuries, nowadays it's a voluntary choice, helping him towards 'a bigger goal'. "I actually always enjoy myself," says the superstar. "During an altitude training camp, you feel your form improving, and you come home quite refreshed. There's plenty to do here, so the hours are quickly filled," he refers to the location of his current training camp: La Plagne, France. "We've had good training weeks and everything is going according to plan."
According to Van der Poel, he is highly motivated to have a good Tour de France. "This is actually the first time I'm going there with a proper preparation. My form is really good now, and I'm glad I can start racing again in a few days. It's been a while since - Paris-Roubaix was my last race. But that's all part of the plan. At the beginning of this year, we discussed that we wanted to invest and train a little more. That comes at the expense of the number of races, but I feel confident about the upcoming races."
Van der Poel still goes to gym twice a week for his back, considers GC riders in hunt for first yellow jersey
In the Tour de France, the first three stages seem tailor-made for Van der Poel. "Those opening days in Spain will be really tough. So I really have to be in top form at the start, but I assume I will be. However, if the general classification riders also have the first yellow jersey in mind, and that will probably be the case, it won't be an easy task for me," the two-time winner of the Tour of Flanders modestly says. The green jersey is definitely not a goal for Van der Poel, who indicates that winning the points classification is a challenge his teammate Jasper Philipsen will take on.
Van der Poel's well-known back problem has been a concern on several occasions throughout recent years. Although there is a noticeable improvement, the winner of Paris-Roubaix states that he has not completely gotten rid of it yet. "It's something I have to continuously work on. I can still be found in the gym at least twice a week. That helps me keep the problem under control. I do notice that it's getting better and better."
Normally, Van der Poel causes a stir with the performances he puts on during various races. However, recently the jack-of-all-trades made the news in a different way when he sported a new look during a training camp: after previously bleaching his hair, recent images showed that 'Poeleke' had shaved his head almost completely. When IDLProCycling.com asked about his personal thoughts behind the new look, the talented cyclist responded with a broad smile. "It's nice and easy! But with the Alpecin products, it will grow back quickly," he said, indirectly promoting his team's main sponsor. "Then I'll have long hair, just like you," he joked, referring in good-humored fashion to yours truly's 1970s hairstyle.
Youri van den Berg