Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) has walked away from his return to racing, a winning performance at the Antwerp Port Classic, with optimism that he is more likely than not to make it to the start line of the UCI Road World Championships and Paris-Roubaix.
Van der Poel set out to test his back injury at the race, his first since crashing in the mountain bike race at the Tokyo Olympic Games. He had already extended his recovery period, pulling out of the Benelux Tour after not being able to train optimally, so was determined to make the most of his Antwerp Port Classic test, according to a report on Dutch website Wielerflits,
“If I had to estimate my chances now, I'm already thinking about something more than the 50/50 that I indicated this morning,” Van der Poel told Wielerflits, and other media after the event.
“I did everything I could to test the back today and certainly didn't play hide and seek. I purposely wanted to make it a long finale to feel how I reacted. By the way, it was also at my request that I drove here. It was an instructive day, but the final decision for the rest of the year should be next week.”
The 26-year-old added that he wanted to see how his back was the morning after the 184 kilometres of racing at the Antwerp Port Classic before deciding if he would take to the start line at the Primus Classic and
Grand Prix de Denain, with the rider looking for as many race days as possible to work toward Worlds, with the road race on 26 September, and Paris-Roubaix on October 3.
“My back will be stiff, but it doesn't have to be a disaster,” Van der Poel said in Wielerflits. “I've been told that I can't break anything in the long run. That is also the reason why I am so eager to try to make it to Paris-Roubaix and the World Cup. And then I want to take a longer rest to let the back heal completely. Because I have to get rid of it someday.”
Before the Antwerp Port Epic, Van der Poel hadn’t raced on the road since the Tour de France, where he delivered a powerful performance in the first week, winning stage 2 and then wearing the yellow jersey of the race leader right through to stage 8. He then left the race before stage 9 to prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games, entering as one of the favourites for the mountain bike race but pulling out after a heavy fall in the opening stages.
Van der Poel, would usually, to be considered a favourite on the undulating 268km road race course at Worlds in Belgium – which starts in Antwerp and finishes in Leuven – and at the rescheduled Paris-Roubaix, however, if he does make it to the start line there may be questions over his form given his absence from racing.
“I should be able to train well for another two weeks to get a decent form at the World Championships,” said Van der Poel. “If I was only at 70 percent, I would never participate.”
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