Mathieu van der Poel wants to go to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and knows that his best bet is the mountain bike race. He has decided to focus on ‘cross and mountain biking until then, and then later turn to full-time road racing.
The 22-year-old is the reigning ‘cross Dutch champion and runner-up to the World title, but told nos.nl, "it is the intention to go to the Olympic Games. That is the highest goal. Cyclo-cross riding is not an Olympic discipline." He added, "on the road you can also go to the Games, but it's harder to be selected for that."
Van der Poel brought in numerous first and second place finishes in cyclo-cross over the 2016-2017 season.
"I've already proven on the mountain bike that I can compete in a World Cup race. Whether it's the same as the Games is hard to say. But I was not super professionally prepared for the World Cup. We can take another step with the right guidance."
He has also brought in top wins for his Beobank-Corendon team on the road, winning a stage at the HC-ranked Tour of Belgium and two stages at the Boucles de la Mayenne on his way to the overall title. He also won the Dwars door het Hageland-Aarschot.
Van der Poel enjoys road racing, "especially the longer distances, if it's difficult. I think that's what I can do well. I also have the ambition to ever become a real racer."
His young age is also to his advantage. After Tokyo he will only be 25 years old. "In a normal professional career you can ride on the road for another ten years."
In the meantime, though, he has got the 2017-2018 cyclo-cross season off to the best possible start, leading the World Cup rankings after winning the first two races in the US.
From here, his immediate goals are simple. "My main goal is the World Cup in Valkenburg, and to win as many races as possible."