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Mathieu van der Poel set to make cyclo-cross return in mid-December

Dutch Mathieu Van Der Poel in action during the mens elite race of the Vestingcross cyclocross cycling event stage 4 of 5 of the World Cup competition in Hulst The Netherlands on January 3 2021 Photo by BAS CZERWINSKI ANP AFP Netherlands OUT Photo by BAS CZERWINSKIANPAFP via Getty Images
Van der Poel in action at the UCI World Cup round in Hulst in January (Image credit: Bas Czerwinski/AFP/Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel will reportedly be the last man of cyclo-cross's 'big three' riders to kick off his season, waiting until mid-December to start racing again.

The Dutchman, who has taken almost a month off the bike following the end of the road season at Paris-Roubaix, where he finished in third place behind winner Sonny Colbrelli, is set to ride a limited cyclo-cross programme of ten to twelve races this season, according to Het Nieuwsblad.

Last season, Van der Poel raced 14 cyclo-cross races after starting at the X2O Trofee Scheldecross on December 12, winning 10 of them. 

He rode three more rounds of the X2O Trofee as well as two Superprestige rounds and four UCI World Cups before ending his season with a fourth UCI World Championships victory in Oostende in late January.

Before starting his cyclo-cross season, Van der Poel is set to take part in an Alpecin-Fenix training camp in Spain from December 1 to 10, so the UCI World Cup round in Val di Sole on December 12 could therefore come too early for him. Instead, the start of his season could come a week later at the 11th of 16 World Cup rounds in Rucphen, Netherlands, on December 18.

Van der Poel has the all-clear to start training again last week after overcoming the back problems that plagued him during the latter part of his road season and forced him to miss the Benelux Tour and MTB World Championships. His physiotherapist Dan Bombeke said that he's back to full health and stepping up preparation for the cyclo-cross season.

As for the other two riders of the 'big three', Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) is set to start his season on December 4 at the Superprestige round in Boom. The 22-year-old Briton recently returned to training after fixing a knee injury he had been suffering from since February.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), meanwhile, is also set to return to cyclo-cross in early December, though a team training camp in the middle of the month means he likely won't face off against Van der Poel until after Christmas.

The trio should face stern competition upon their return to racing, with reigning European champion Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) so far dominating the start of the 2021-22 season. The 24-year-old has taken eight victories from 12 starts, including three of five UCI World Cup rounds and Monday's X2O Trofee opener, the Koppenbergcross. He currently leads the World Cup, X2O Trofee, and Superprestige standings.

Quinten Hermans (Tormans-Circus) and Toon Aerts (Trek Baloise Lions) are the only other men to have tasted success in any of the main three 'cross competitions. The season continues on September 7 with the UEC European Championships at the Vamberg in the Netherlands.

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