Van der Poel hopes to return in time for Dutch national championships

Mathieu van der Poel will miss Sunday's Grand Prix Sven Nys in the wake of his heavy crash at the Azencross on Thursday, but the Beobank-Corendon rider is hopeful that he will be back in action in time to defend his Dutch national cyclo-cross title in Sint-Michielsgestel on January 8.

Van der Poel lost control on a descent on the penultimate lap of Thursday's Azencross and had to be taken away on a stretcher. The Dutchman was taken to hospital but sustained no broken bones in the incident. He skipped the Versluys cyclo-cross on Friday as a consequence and he will also forgo Sunday's GP Nys in Baal as a precaution.

"I hoped right away that it wasn't too bad, because the major crosses this season are still to come," Van der Poel told Sporza. "I was groggy, but it looked worse than it actually was. I need to rest now for 48 hours and see how I feel afterwards, but I certainly won't be racing in Baal."

Van der Poel's crash at Azencross came about as he tussled with Telenet-Fidea duo Tom Meeusen and Toon Aerts at the front of the race. When Aerts accelerated, Meeusen allowed a gap to open, and Van der Poel had just surged around Meeusen into second place when he fell.

"I didn't think I was unconscious but the first aid staff told me I was. I can imagine the moment of impact but I can't remember it so well. I only know that I felt nothing in my face and had quite some pain in my neck. That was nasty," Van der Poel said. "I went past Meeusen on the outside, and I went with too much speed toward the mound. And then the lights went out."

Van der Poel has been the outstanding performer of the cyclo-cross season to date, despite delaying the beginning of his campaign after he underwent surgery on a knee injury in July. The centrepiece of his season will be the World Championships in Luxembourg in late January, as he looks to regain the crown he won in 2015. Next weekend’s national championships will serve as the beginning of Van der Poel's countdown to the Worlds.

"I'm hoping to be at the start there at least," van der Poel said. "I want to go to Sint-Michielsgestel to defend my Dutch tricolour jersey."

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