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Mathieu van der Poel cancels Flanders recon, doubtful for Strade Bianche

Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) at the 2019 Tour of Britain
Mathieu van der Poel (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

There is uncertainty surrounding the running of next Saturday's Strade Bianche, given the current coronavirus situation, but even if the race does go ahead Mathieu van der Poel is a serious doubt as he continues to suffer from flu.

The cyclo-cross world champion started his road season at the Volta ao Algarve in February and was due to ride Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday but had to pull out due to illness. He has not started training again and a planned recon of the Tour of Flanders route on Monday has been scrapped.

There is still time to recover before Saturday’s race in Tuscany, but his Alpecin-Fenix team are reluctant to rush him back.

"It’s just a normal flu. The doctor thought it might take four or five days to recover and for the moment it seems to be like that," Christoph Roodhooft told Cyclingnews.

"We have to see what impact the illness has on his condition and then we’ll make a new plan. Normally, he should be ok but if he’s not 100 per cent healthy we won’t take him. It makes no sense to go to a race on that level, when you’re not completely healthy."

If Van der Poel misses Strade Bianche, his one-day debut will be pushed back to Milan-San Remo on March 21. However, La Classicissima is under even greater threat than Strade Bianche given the spike of coronavirus cases in Italy have largely occurred in the Lombardy region near Milan.

Van der Poel is due to race the Volta a Catalunya two days after San Remo, ahead of the main cobbled Classics but, in order to make up for missed racing, he could head to Nokere Koerse on March 18. At the Belgian race last year he was in contention for the final sprint but crashed heavily.

"The race programme is something we’ll have to wait and see," said Roodhooft. "Last year he started in Nokere and it’s also not a bad option. We’ll soon think about it more and worry about it, but maybe the Italian races go ahead and then it makes no sense to worry.

"Mathieu is not normally someone who needs much racing to be prepared, but every year is different."

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.