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Mathieu van der Poel eyes stage win on Tour de France debut in 2021

Dutch road-race champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) at the 2020 Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne before he crashed out of the Belgian race and ended his road season
Dutch road-race champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) at the 2020 Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne before he crashed out of the Belgian race and ended his road season (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Mathieu van der Poel says that he's looking forward to making his debut at next year's Tour de France, with the Dutchman and his Alpecin-Fenix team aiming for stage victories having seen the route for the 2021 race unveiled in Paris on Sunday evening.

"Our team will be aiming at a stage victory, and when you see the number of teams that come away empty-handed after three weeks of racing, winning one would mean that the Tour would be very much a success for us," Van der Poel told L'Equipe on Monday.

"The first two stages will really suit the puncheurs," the 25-year-old Dutchman said. "But winning will be far from easy; almost every rider in the bunch will want to have their chance."

With the opening stage finishing on a steep incline, and with two ascents of the Mûr-de-Bretagne climb coming at the end of stage 2, there'll be an early opportunity to take the leader's yellow jersey for a puncheur like Van der Poel, whose grandfather, Raymond Poulidor – who died last year – never managed to wear yellow during his career, despite finishing second overall at the Tour three times and third five times.

Van der Poel and his Alpecin-Fenix team could already have confidently expected a wildcard place for next year's Tour, but the ProTeam squad's almost-assured victory in the UCI Europe Tour rankings will ensure that they'll automatically receive invites to next season's WorldTour races, including the Grand Tours.

Besides the Tour, Van der Poel also intends to ride the mountain-bike cross-country race at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games that get under way in late July, but has yet to decide on his entire 2021 summer programme.

"It's premature to talk about it. We've seen this year that things can change very quickly," he said of the season having been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. "Many factors come into play. As long as nothing changes, it's certain that I'll start next year's Tour de France and that I'll go to the Olympics afterwards to compete in the mountain biking. But we'll have to decide later how best to prepare."

Van der Poel emulated father Adri's 1986 Tour of Flanders victory by winning the 2020 edition of De Ronde last month, outsprinting Belgian rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who rode his second Tour de France this year.

Van der Poel then ended his season with a premature exit from the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne three days later, crashing into a ditch with 16km to go while part of the lead group and suffering mild concussion.