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Mathieu van der Poel confirms he will miss Imola World Championships

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) won stage 7 of Tirreno-Adriatico (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) showed his form on Sunday with a Tirreno-Adriatico stage victory in Loreto, but the Dutchman has confirmed that he will not participate in the World Championships road race in Imola on September 27.

The Worlds were initially due to take place in Aigle and Martigny, but the event was moved to Italy due to the restrictions on public gatherings in place in Switzerland owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Although the Imola route is not mountainous like the Aigle-Martigny parcours, the final amount of metres climbed in the 258.2km race is similar due to two steep climb on the 28.8km circuit. 

“I have already decided that I won’t participate,” Van der Poel said, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Together with the coaches, we decided that the circuit is too hard for me. There is an altitude gain of almost 5,000 metres. I prefer to concentrate on the objectives that follow, which in October will be, above all, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

“But there’s also Amstel Gold Race, where I’d love to win again. It’s not by chance that I’ve gone on the attack and been in front a lot at Tirreno. It’s all work that will be useful.”

Van der Poel’s 2020 season was originally built around the mountain bike event at the Tokyo Olympics but the Games have been postponed to next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

After struggling to make an impression at Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo when the season resumed with a revised calendar in August, Van der Poel has begun to hit his stride in recent weeks. He regained the Dutch national title and placed fourth at the European Championships in late August, and he continued his build-up to a busy October at Tirreno-Adriatico.

“The enforced lay-off because of COVID-19 obviously wasn’t very favourable to me,” Van der Poel admitted. 

“Normally, the more I race, the stronger I get, and going without races perhaps hindered me. Even at the start of Tirreno, the sensations weren’t particularly good, but I’ve felt better as it’s gone on.”

On Sunday, Van der Poel was part of a group of 14 that went clear after a rapid opening 50km and he mastered the hilly finishing circuit to win the stage by catching and passing Matteo Fabbro (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the final kilometre.

In the Classics in October, Van der Poel will once again clash with his long-term cyclo-cross rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who has won Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and two stages of the Tour de France in recent weeks, and also served as a deluxe domestique for yellow jersey Primoz Roglic. 

On Monday, Van Aert was named to the Belgian team for the Imola Worlds, where he will lead the line alongside Greg Van Avermaet.

“People have made these comparisons for a long time and I think they’ll always be there because we rode against each other so much in cyclo-cross,” Van der Poel said of Van Aert.

“After the injury he had last year, he has come back even stronger. He has surprised me, it’s to be applauded. But I don’t think too much about the comparisons.”