'I was wrong' – Mathieu van der Poel speaks for first time about Worlds assault incident

Mathieu van der Poel
Mathieu van der Poel has now addressed his assault charges from the Worlds in Australia (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel has recognised that he made a mistake trying to resolve an incident in his World Championships team hotel which culminated in his being arrested, pleading guilty to assault, and fined 1,500 Australian dollars.

Van der Poel was talking to media for the first time since flying home from Australia, where his participation in the UCI Road World Championships elite men’s road race was overshadowed by an altercation involving two teenage girls playing a game of “knock-and-run” on his hotel room door the previous night.

In a report published on nieuwsblad.be on Tuesday, Van der Poel recognised “I should have done things differently,” and confirmed that he did hold one of the teenage girls by the arm.

However, he said he acted "certainly with no intention of hurting anyone.”

"Of course I'm sorry, I'm wrong too," he told reporters. “I admit that honestly. I shouldn't have done that. I should have done it differently. Unfortunately, it did happen and I'm trying to put it behind me, and look ahead to what's to come.”

However, he also insisted that  “Anyone who knows me knows that I have never hurt anyone. There's a lot of stories going around about pushing and stuff, that's absolutely not true and that's not what happened.”

Van der Poel flew into Europe via Brussels Zaventem airport where he spoke about the complete incident for the first time, which saw him spend much of Saturday night in a police station and then abandon the World Championships after barely an hour of racing.

The incident culminated in Van der Poel being sentenced for assault and fined, although his lawyer has now appealed against the sentence. 

Van der Poel nonetheless confirmed that the videos that have appeared on websites that showed the incident “show what I said,” and admits he handled the situation badly.

“I should have informed someone, the front desk or something, anyway. It was just getting late and I wanted to sleep,” he said. “I thought I'd fix it myself, which ended up being completely wrong. Unfortunately, I can't change it anymore."

Van der Poel said his next steps will be to head for home, and that come what may, he was pleased to be home in Europe. But he did not rule out racing some more before the end of the 2023 season.

“That's a bit of a wait and see how I feel,” he concluded.

“I trained very hard for the World Championships and I felt fine. So I hope to do something, but it depends on how I recover in the coming days.”

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