Former Tour de France leader Mathieu Van der Poel already was back in usual team Alpecin-Fenix kit when he fielded questions from the media after the race’s first Alpine stage but memories of his six days in the maillot jaune will not disappear nearly so quickly.
Van der Poel’s spell in yellow began with his stage win atop of the Mur de Bretagne last Sunday in the name of his late grandfather Raymond Poulidor, who raced the Tour for more than a decade but never claimed the lead.
He nearly lost the maillot jaune to Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) in Wednesday’s time trial but instead he remained in yellow by eight seconds and then cushioned his lead considerably in Friday’s long break. On top of defending his lead, he also showed his versatility by providing lead-outs for his sprinter teammates in Alpecin-Fenix on the flat stages of the race.
However, on the lower slopes of the Col de Romme, the second of three first category climbs on Saturday, Van der Poel could not handle the pace and he eventually shipped nearly 22 minutes on stage winner Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious).
Having slumped to 23rd overall on stage 8, Van der Poel took a non-commital line about whether he will remain in the race. As he pointed out to reporters, he could hardly be disappointed with what he has achieved so far in his maiden Tour de France.
“I’m enjoying this but I will have to discuss it with my team,” Van der Poel, also looking to battle for MTB gold in the upcoming Olympic Games, said. “I have other goals and on the rest day (Monday) we'll see if I might quit.
“I’m really happy with my Tour and it’s a success already. I’ve won a stage and worn the yellow jersey a lot longer than expected.”
Van der Poel had warned prior to the Alps that he had next to no expectations of being able to hold the jersey in the mountains. That prediction proved 100 per cent correct as he was dropped at the foot of the Col de Romme from the Pogačar group shortly after Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) had also thrown in the towel and just before his arch-rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
“It was a strange stage. I could have survived a little bit longer and I felt ok going uphill so I’m pleased about that,” Van der Poel said.
“But I knew there was another climb coming up so I realised it wasn’t going to work out for me. It didn’t make any sense for me to continue fighting.”
After the stage, Van der Poel Tweeted one final picture of himself in yellow handling a bidon to a delighted child on the side of the road. It all starts with a dream” he commented on the Twitter message. “Had an amazing 6 days wearing the yellow jersey, thank you for all your support!”
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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