Van der Poel will race Milan-San Remo, team confirms

Mathieu van der Poel with Alpecin-Fenix teammates Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier before Paris-Roubaix 2021
Mathieu van der Poel with Alpecin-Fenix teammates Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier before Paris-Roubaix 2021 (Image credit: David Stockman/Belga/AFP/Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel will line up at Milan-San Remo for his season debut, his Alpecin-Fenix team have confirmed.

The Dutchman has been out of action since the start of the year in a bid to recover from a long-running back injury, but will now make a dramatic comeback in one of the world’s biggest races.

Van der Poel has been ramping up his training in recent weeks - indicating that he is pain-free and on the road to recovery - but his Spring Classics campaign has been in constant doubt, and Milan-San Remo had widely been written off as coming too early.

However, there was a gap in Alpecin-Fenix's roster for La Classicissima, and Van der Poel was given the green light from a medical perspective.

"Due to the several sick and injured riders in the team, only six would remain to line-up for La Primavera. Because Van der Poel’s return was already scheduled for Tuesday at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, it was decided on Thursday to add him to the roster for Milan-San Remo," read a statement from the team on Friday lunchtime.  

"Van der Poel's training in recent weeks has been satisfactory and his back issues seem to be gradually disappearing. Nevertheless, the team management do not want to put any pressure on the four-time cyclocross world champion; he will participate without expectations or ambitions.

"The 293 km race was preferred over a training session on Saturday to get some extra race kilometres in the legs. After Milan-San Remo, Van der Poel will stay in Italy for the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali."

Alpecin-Fenix issued a long list of sick or injured riders on Tuesday, with Lionel Taminiaux, Oscar Riesebeek, Sjoerd Bax, Eddie Anderson, Sam Gaze, Jasper Philipsen, Kristian Sbaragli, Jonas Rickaert, Jay Vine and Alex Bogna all in varying states of health. Taminiaux made his return from a collarbone fracture at Milano-Torino on Wednesday, while Sbaragli recovered from bronchitis enough to race there, too.

Fabio van den Bossche pulled out of Friday's Bredene Koksijde Classic, replaced by Guillaume Van Keirsbulck. Taminiaux, Simon Dehairs, Scott Thwaites, Dries De Bondt, Tim Merlier and Alexander Krieger are due to race in Belgium on Friday.

Sbaragli and Jasper Philipsen are the only riders so far confirmed to race Milan-San Remo.

Van der Poel has been plagued by back pain since last summer when he switched between road and mountain bike racing to prepare for both his Tour de France debut and the Tokyo Olympic Games. After leading the Tour de France for six days, the Dutchman dropped out of the race to head to Tokyo, where he suffered an unfortunate crash on the first lap of the cross-country race that knocked him out of the event.

The fall did not do his back any favours and he dropped out of MTB Worlds and the Benelux Tour but returned to the road late last year to win the Antwerp Port Epic and finished third in Paris-Roubaix.

After ending his cyclo-cross season in his second race in December, Van der Poel was diagnosed with swelling on a intervertebral disc. Forced to rest for the entire month of January, Van der Poel returned to light training before heading to Spain in early February, where he stayed until this week.

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