Mathieu van der Poel's plans for the remainder of the 2021 season are up in the air, with the Dutchman struggling with back problems, according to reports.
The Alpecin-Fenix leader was forced to cut short an altitude training camp in Livigno last week due to back pain. According to a report in Het Laatste Nieuws, he and his team will draw up a plan for the rest of the season based on his progress at the weekend.
Van der Poel has suffered from back pain since the MTB World Cup in Albstadt back in May but the problem has become worse in recent weeks. His fall in the cross-country MTB race at the Tokyo Olympics was not the cause, but the pain has only increased since then.
Het Laatste Nieuws reports that the 26-year-old has received a painkilling injection and that he and his team have tinkered with his position on the bike and his cleats, to little effect so far.
Van der Poel is set to ride the UCI MTB World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy on August 29 before heading to the Benelux Tour the next day. The Road World Championships in Flanders on September 26 and Paris-Roubaix on October 3 are also on his schedule but his participation in these races is currently uncertain due to the injury.
Dutch national MTB coach Gerben de Knegt told Het Laatste Nieuws that Van der Poel indicated that he would like to race the MTB Worlds and that missing out could have a knock-on effect for participation in races next season.
"Mathieu indicated that he would like to do it," he said. "I immediately felt that he thought he had something to put right. But it's also important for his UCI points. Mathieu really needs it.
"He missed a lot in Tokyo and if he misses the World Cup, he won't be allowed to start in the short races next year. It's not that he does 10 mountain bike races every year; the UCI points are welcome."
Earlier this week Alpecin-Fenix manager Christophe Roodhooft told Het Nieuwsblad that he hopes for a change in the situation in the coming days.
"There's certainly nothing alarming going on, but there must be a turnaround in the coming days," he said. "He has problems with his lower back. Riding at ease is possible but of course that's not training. That's why we decided to stop the training camp."
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