"It's been a great two weeks but it's okay to leave right now," the 19-year-old rider told Cyclingnews today.
Van Poppel is the youngest rider in the WorldTour and the youngest to start in the Tour de France since World War II. "I am used to the attention I get because I have been the youngest all year. But in the Tour de France everything is bigger. I didn't expect the media attention to be so huge. There were days I had to rush to the start because of all the interviews I did in the morning."
It was expected that Van Poppel wouldn't make it to Paris. "For a 19-year-old, this is enough. He is a rider who is still developing. You also change young football players at half time, for example. That is what we are doing here too," team doctor Nando Liem told Cyclingnews.
"He is still fine, both mentally and physically and we like to keep it that way. There are still important races to come and we want to protect him."
The Tour de France has been a great experience for the young rider. "The first stage to Bastia, where I finished third and could start in the white jersey the next day, is something I will never forget. I felt that I showed the world that I had a reason to be here."
Of course there were also difficult days like stage 9 to Bagnères de Bigorre. That stage won by Dan Martin after a furious series of attacks by the GC riders, saw many non-climbers suffer. "The pace was so high from the start but I managed to stay with the other sprinters. When I saw that and saw that they were worse off than me, I decided to continue the second week too. There were some great opportunities for me there."
In the second week, Van Poppel contested the sprint on several occasions. He finished ninth in the stage to Saint Malo but was also held back by crashes. "But all in all, I am really happy with how things went. I leave the Tour de France on a high and will travel home tomorrow with a smile."
Eneco Tour will be the next race for the young Dutchman. "I have already done some great races this year with great results and podium places too. I hope I can show some more in the Eneco Tour. It's not a big problem if I don't get that win in my first season as a professional but I would sure like it, of course."
Whether Van Poppel will be part of the same team in 2014 remains to be seen. Vacansoleil-DCM hasn't succeeded in finding a new sponsor yet. "I would like to stay with this team because we are friends," Van Poppel said.
"So I'll wait untill we know for sure what will happen in the future. Since this Tour de France there has been some interest in me and therefore I am not worried about my own future but I'd like that future to be with Vacansoleil-DCM."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.