An emphatic winner of Strade Bianche twelve months ago, Mathieu van der Poel will miss this year’s race as he continues his recovery from the back injury that cut short his cyclo-cross season. The Dutchman is currently training in Spain and his father Adrie van der Poel has confirmed that he will not return to competition for at least another two weeks.
Van der Poel has been posting details of his training rides in the hinterland of Alicante on Strava over the past two weeks, but it is still not clear when he will be fit to begin his road season and whether he will be competitive in the cobbled Classics.
“He is very enthusiastic about the location he’s in now, and he is going to stay there for another two weeks. So he won't be racing for at least two more weeks," Adrie van der Poel said during an appearance on Sporza’s Extra Time Koers show on Wednesday evening.
“He has been training for three or four weeks now. It's going well, but those training sessions are not the same as racing for more than six hours with an average of 45kph. He still lacks hardness. His last decent race was actually last year's Tour. After that, it was a bit of a hiccup.”
Asked if his son might be able to return to action at Milano-Torino (March 16) or at the Settimana Coppi e Bartali (March 22-26), Adrie van der Poel said: “I don't know where he should start, he should just start when he's ready. He should have very little or no pain anymore.”
Mathieu van der Poel was hampered by the longstanding back injury during the second half of last season, though he still won the Antwerp Port Epic, placed 8th in the World Championships and finished third at Paris-Roubaix.
A period of rest ahead of the cyclo-cross campaign did not put the issue to rights, however. After placing second at the UCI World Cup in Dendermonde on December 26, he abandoned the following day’s Superprestige in Heusden-Zolder.
He was subsequently diagnosed with swelling on an intervertebral disc. He only returned to the bike in late January and then travelled onwards to Spain for warm weather training the following month.
“Occasionally he still has a reaction,” Adrie van der Poel said. “But what I do find reassuring is that he says it's not like it's been the past few years.”
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