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Mathieu van der Poel could restart season at Sibiu Tour

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) could resume his road season at the little-known UCI 2.1-ranked stage race, the Sibiu Cycling Tour, in Romania on July 23. The participation of the team is, however, dependent on the lifting of restrictions in place to control the spread of COVID-19 which currently include a two-week isolation for any travelers from the Netherlands and Belgium.

Van der Poel's team earned wildcard invitations to all five of cycling's Monuments this season, with the Dutchman scheduled to kick off the post-coronavirus WorldTour at Strade Bianche on August 1.

According to AD.nl, the team manager Michel Cornelisse hopes to get the team back up to speed with the five-stage, four-day race from July 23-26. Originally scheduled for July 2-5, it was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With Strada Bianche (August 1), Milano-Torino (Aug 5), Milan-San Remo (Aug 8), Gran Piemonte (Aug 12) and Il Lombardia (Aug 15) on the Amstel Gold Race winner's schedule in quick succession, Van der Poel will need to come into August with top form, and the Sibiu Cycling Tour is the only stage race currently on the calendar that he can fit into the schedule.

The race might not be on the radar of the casual cycling fan, but its past winners include Team Ineos' Egan Bernal (2017), winner of last year's Tour de France, and Ivan Sosa (2018).

"This year will be the tenth edition and now that the whole cycling calendar has been turned upside down by the coronavirus, renowned teams are coming to Romania," Cornelisse says. "So Alpecin-Fenix, with Mathieu van der Poel but also Bora-Hansgrohe with the German sprinter Pascal Ackermann and Lennard Kämna. With Israel Start-Up Nation, a second team from the World Tour is also at the start."

Van der Poel is aiming for the victory in Strade Bianche, Cornelisse says, the first of a series of Italian races he will target. "Today he arrives in La Plagne, France, for a two-week altitude camp. A few days after that altitude training, the Sibiu Cycling Tour starts with a prologue of two and a half kilometers. Then another mountain stage, a transition stage, a short time trial plus a flat stage. Then Van der Poel should have enough racing rhythm to ride in the front in Strade Bianche."

Other riders on the start list include Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabù) and 48-year-old Davide Rebellin who once raced against Van der Poel's father Adrie.

The appearance of Alpecin-Fenix depends on the progress of coronavirus mitigation in that country. It currently is experiencing a second wave of the pandemic and has almost 400 new cases daily.

"The Romanian authorities have a two-week self-isolation for anyone coming from either the Netherlands or Belgium," Cornelisse says. "Flying between the Netherlands or Belgium and Romania is not yet possible. The restrictions in Romania may be eased quickly, but if the quarantine requirement remains in place, the chance that Alpecin-Fenix will appear at the start is small."