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Mathieu van der Poel to test back injury before decision on Worlds and Paris-Roubaix

Mathieu van der Poel wins stage 2 of the 2021 Tour de France
Mathieu van der Poel riding to victory on stage 2 of the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel will return to racing on Sunday at the Antwerp Port Epic as he continues to recover from a back problem that forced him to miss the Mountain Bike World Championships and the Benelux Tour and raised doubts about him targeting the Road World Championships in Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

The Dutchman’s Alpecin-Fenix team said van der Poel had ‘training stable for about a week now’ and confirmed he would ride the one-day race in the north of Belgium that includes 47 dirt road sectors. 

The team said that an ‘interim evaluation’ will be made on if van der Poel will then ride the World Championships in Flanders and Paris-Roubaix and the rest of 2021 season and his winter cyclo-cross season.   

Van der Poel and Alpecin-Fenix revealed he was suffering with a back problem after he returned home early from a training camp in the Italian Alps in August.

It has been reported the problem dates back to May and is linked with the change in position from the road bike in the spring to the mountain bike in the summer. Van der Poel crashed hard during the Tokyo Olympic mountain bike race but this did not have an immediate impact on his back problem.  

According to a report in WielerFlits, Van der Poel is suffering from a painful herniated disc, with fluid between vertebrae bones in his back.

The World Championships road race takes place between Antwerp and Leuven, with an undulating circuit in the south of Flanders, on September 26. Paris-Roubaix, which has been rescheduled from its spring slot, follows on October 3. 

Van der Poel would naturally be considered a favourite for both events considering his success but his injury now places a cloud of doubt above his participation, with his father Adri already publicly asking if it is not better for him to end his season early rather than race when not at his best.