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Mathieu van der Poel set to start 2021 road season at UAE Tour

OTEGEM BELGIUM JANUARY 13 Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands and AlpecinFenix Team during the 52nd Internationale Betafence CX Otegem 2020 Men Elite UCICX Otegem on January 13 2020 in Otegem Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Mathieu van der Poel in action during the cyclo-cross season (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is set to kick off his 2021 road season at the UAE Tour in February.

The Dutchman, currently racing in cyclo-cross, confirmed the news to Het Nieuwsblad after winning the Cyclocross Gullegem on Saturday.

He'll take to the road at the first WorldTour race of the year, which runs from February 21-27, after completeing his 'cross season at the World Championships in Oostende, where he'll bid for a fourth elite world title.

Last year the UAE Tour was cut short after an outbreak of COVID-19 struck the peloton, seeing several teams stuck in quarantine for weeks after the race and a number of riders and staff hospitalised, including UAE Team Emirates' Max Richeze and Fernando Gaviria.

Barring any further COVID-19 related restrictions or lockdowns, Van der Poel will start his road campaign there, meaning he'll miss out on the Opening Weekend of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, which falls on February 27-28.

After the UAE Tour, the 25-year-old is set to race either Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico depending on the routes, with Dwars door Vlaanderen – which he won in 2019 – also on his program in the run-up to the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Van der Poel's cyclo-cross campaign continues later today at the UCI World Cup round in Hulst, his 11th race of the season. He's taken seven wins so far, including the second World Cup round in Namur, and currently lies third in the rankings behind rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).

He'll take a break after Hulst, telling Het Nieuwsblad: "I do feel that my condition is getting worse. Due to the loss of the Dutch National Championships, I'll now get a training block. It is needed." He'll return to 'cross at the Flandriencross on January 23 and the final World Cup round in Overijse a day later before ending his season at the Worlds on January 31.