World cyclo-cross champion Mathieu van der Poel has confirmed he will be back in action at next Sunday’s Koksijde World Cup race. His Belgian rival Wout van Aert is looking forward to racing against the Dutchman as they fight to show who is the best rider in cyclo-cross.
Van der Poel hurt his knee in a crash at the Tour de L’Avenir and struggled with the injury before opting to undergo surgery in early October. He has been training outdoors since October 18, including a spell in Benicassim, Spain to enjoy the warmer weather on the Spanish coast.
The Dutch national coach confirmed today that Van der Poel will ride in Koksijde. The 20-year-old Van der Poel is unsure of how he will perform, and is hoping to make it into the top 10 in the race.
"Over the past week I have done some long days on the bike," he said in his column in Het Nieuwsblad. "Four and a half hour is longer than is necessary for cyclo-cross but it has allowed me to establish a broad base for more cross-specific training in the last week before Koksijde. Between that endurance training I’ve been spending time in the gym too.” he explained.
“My knee is still a little swollen but it doesn’t hurt. In the last week I had (BKCP-Corendon teammates) Vincent Baestaens and Philipp Walsleben with me as training companions. Obviously training is not competition but I'm quite curious about what I can do. A top ten would be satisfying, and seems realistic."
Van der Poel beat van Aert to win the world elite title last February. His Belgian rival has dominated the cyclo-cross calendar to date, winning nine out of the 12 races he has ridden. Van Aert sportingly welcomed van der Poel’s return.
"If I can win against Mathieu, I really am the best," van Aert said in an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws. "I know Mathieu and he will immediately get a good level. I read that he was in Spain and training hard down there."