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Van der Poel all-in for Classics after Tour de France rejection

Alpecin-Fenix’s Mathieu van der Poel on stage 2 of the 2020 Volta ao Algarve
Alpecin-Fenix’s Mathieu van der Poel on stage 2 of the 2020 Volta ao Algarve (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Mathieu van der Poel will continue to combine road racing with mountain biking and cyclo-cross if competition resumes in the late summer and autumn, looking to keep a busy schedule after attempts to engineer a Tour de France debut proved unsuccessful. 

The Dutchman had built his 2020 campaign around the cross country mountain bike race at the Olympics in Tokyo but went back to the drawing board as the Games were pushed back a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

His Alpecin-Fenix team lobbied organiser ASO to invite extra teams to the rescheduled Tour de France but other stakeholders pushed back against the idea and race director Christian Prudhomme confirmed this week that no more than the original 22 teams would be on the start line. 

That has forced van der Poel to put off his Grand Tour debut until 2021 or possibly 2022.  

"Of course I would have liked to ride the Tour de France after all, but because I knew that the chances of being able to start were very small, I hadn't set my sights on that either," Van der Poel told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.

"I had already received signals in that direction. So that's not a big disappointment, although we would have preferred to start the Tour. But that's the risk if you don't belong to a WorldTour team. It is a pity because it could have been perfect in this quiet year, but on the other hand there was no Grand Tour planned due to the Olympic Games this year."

Van der Poel will instead base his road racing campaign on the 'spring' Classics, which are now taking place across the late summer and autumn. His first appearance will be at Strade Bianche on August 1, followed by Milan-San Remo a week later. 

September could also feature the World Road Championships and a trip to Canada for the Gran Prix Cycliste Montréal and Québec, before the cobbled and Ardennes Classics in October. He will opt for Amstel Gold Race, which he won in dramatic fashion last year, on October 10 over over Gent-Wevelgem the following day, and may even make his Liège-Bastogne-Liège debut on October 4. 

"I agree that it is not possible to achieve a top result twice in the same weekend in the Amstel and Gent-Wevelgem. I choose the Amstel Gold Race, also because Wevelgem was not on my schedule this year," Van der Poel told Nieuwsblad

"I don't know if I'll do Liège yet. In principle, that race is a bit too difficult for me, but if there are only 30 races on my schedule, so to speak, and the team wants me to do it, then I will certainly be keen on that."

Dwars door Vlaanderen, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix then take place in the second half of October. After that, Van der Poel would hope to ride the Mountain Bike World Championships if they are rearranged following the cancellation of the planned event in Albstadt, and would then don his rainbow jersey for cyclo-cross in December, missing early races in the cyclo-cross calendar. 

"If everything goes ahead, I'll still be busy enough. With all my heart I hope this is the fixed calendar, but I don't dare say that out loud yet," Van der Poel said. 

"On the other hand, it is almost two months until the Strade Bianche. That should be my first race. If we can't live a little normally by then, that would be very bad."