Mathieu van der Poel has hit back at criticism from Roger De Vlaeminck after the former rider said the young Dutchman's recent domination had 'broken' cyclo-cross. The 23-year-old responded, saying that he doesn’t train to make cyclo-cross exciting.
Van der Poel has been a dominant force throughout the current cyclo-cross season, something that has been more apparent with the struggles of his primary rival, Wout van Aert.
Van der Poel won his second consecutive World Cup race in Tabor on Saturday after distancing his competitors on the second lap. He has also won the last two rounds of the DVV Trofee and leads the Superprestige series after winning every single race so far.
On Sunday, De Vlaeminck said that many fans were put off by the dominance and that Van der Poel should ride smarter.
"I think it's a shame what happens, nobody is nipping at Mathieu van der Poel's heels, he's way too good. But, I think Van der Poel has to be smarter because many people are put off," De Vlaeminck told VRT.
"After 10 minutes, you've seen everything in cyclo-cross nowadays, it's no longer worth viewing. Van der Poel is a real Dutchman who wants to take everything, I understand that, but you can also make it nice if you are the best. Because I do not like it anymore, Van der Poel makes the sport a little bit broken.”
Van der Poel was direct in his rebuffing of the comments, saying it wasn’t for him to make the racing exciting. He added that by waiting for rivals he could end up losing races.
"I understand why people say that, but I give the same answer as my father Adrie," Van der Poel told Het Nieuwsblad.
"If I wait to ride away and three laps before the end I have a flat tire, then the rest will not wait for me either. I train hard in the week to win cyclo-cross. Not to make cyclo-cross exciting.”
De Vlaeminck keen to help Van Aert
In addition to his comments about Van der Poel, De Vlaeminck - who won the cyclo-cross world title in 1975 - said that he wanted to work with world champion Wout van Aert.
The Belgian had a difficult start to the season after the relationship with his team broke down beyond repair and he unilaterally terminated his contract early. Van Aert could only manage seventh in Tabor after a puncture, finishing 46 seconds behind Van der Poel.
"I spoke with Wout van Aert and told him that he lacks speed,” said De Vlaeminck.
“He has to ride more behind the moped. Ride 50 or 60kph, and then go for a ride next to that moped. The first time you do it for 20 metres, the second time for 30 meters and that's how you ride it.
"I want to train and lead Van Aert. Maybe it is too late for this year, but it will certainly be successful next season. I am sure that Van Aert will return and that Van der Poel will no longer let him go. Although, Van Aert must be rescued from those contractual disputes because they are playing a role for him.”