The possibility that Mathieu van der Poel might only race on mountain bikes in 2024 and drop both cyclo-cross and road that year with an eye to competing at the Olympic Games has been raised by his father, former pro Adrie.
Van der Poel senior was talking in an interview in the magazine Helden, where he argued that a single focus on MTB might be more productive for the Alpecin-Fenix racer. That was both in terms of qualification rounds and how that affected actual race participation, as well as the physical toll that alternating between disciplines demanded, he argued.
Van der Poel said that as yet the 2024 Olympics were not up for discussion yet, but there was a chance that Mathieu would race them again in the MTB discipline. Rather than switching from road to MTB and cyclo-cross and back again, he argued, one option could be to stick to a single branch of the sport.
“Perhaps it would be wise to give up mountain biking in 2022 and 2023, and then focus solely on mountain biking in the year of the Olympics and leave road cycling [that season],” Van der Poel told Helden.
“Combining those three disciplines has created a busy schedule in recent years. Not in terms of competition days, but in terms of preparation. It is difficult to suddenly switch disciplines in a shorter preparation period, because that involves a lot of adjustments.
“When you are mountain biking, for example, you are in a completely different position. In addition, in mountain biking you often have to fight for your starting position [on the start grid], so you have to start at the back if you don't ride many races."
Van der Poel senior said that discussion about the MTB Olympic race had not yet taken place, arguing that “I think last summer's Olympics are still running through his mind, although I don't hear about it now."
“He will therefore not yet think about an approach for the Olympic Games in Paris, although I certainly do not rule out the possibility that he will go for it again.”
Van der Poel certainly has a sporting debt to settle with that particular discipline in the Olympics: in Japan last year he crashed out of the cross-country MTB race, which was won by Britain’s Tom Pidcock.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.