Much has been said and written about Mathieu van der Poel as he romped through his first Classics campaign and even his grandfather, former rider, Raymond Poulidor has been impressed. The eight-time Tour de France podium finisher says that Van der Poel is even better than himself and his father Adrie.
"He has the genes of his father and his grandfather. He is better than we are when you see his palmares," Poulidor told NOS.nl.
After dominating the cyclo-cross circuit this past season, and winning his second elite World Championship title, the 24-year-old Dutchman went on to be one of the top spring riders. He has won six times on the road so far this season, including Dwars door Vlaanderen, Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race. He was fourth in his Tour of Flanders debut, after coming back from a crash that seemed to rule him out. He may not have won, but Poulidor, 83, believed that his grandson would have come out on top if he hadn't come down.
"If he hadn't had any problems along the way, he would be the best. He was the moral winner of that day," he said.
With Van der Poel showing that he is adept at almost anything he puts his mind to, Poulidor was asked if he thought he could win the Tour de France. Poulidor could not answer that but said that his grandson would have to ride the race in the future.
"He is already doing special things at his age. And he adapts to every cycling discipline," said Poulidor. "If one day he thinks he wants to ride the Tour, who knows. By the way, I think he will have to do it in the future."
Though Van der Poel is turning to the road more these days, Poulidor says that the Dutchman is unlikely to put cyclo-cross behind him. “In any case, there is no question that he will give up cyclo-cross. He won't, cyclo-cross is sacred to him.”
Father Adrie van der Poel, 59, who also had a successful cycling career, says his son takes after him "in character. Those stubborn traits. He knows well what he wants, and knows well what he can't do."
The younger Van der Poel "maps out his own career," according to Poulidor. "He doesn't listen to anyone. He won't lose, even if he just plays a game with his brother. If his brother wins, he leaves the table."
The secret to it all is Van der Poel's attitude, Poulidor concludes. "He has an exceptional character, he cycles with pleasure and takes nothing seriously. And that is perhaps his strongest point. He is always relaxed."