Mathieu van der Poel has once again responded to criticism that his dominance in cyclo-cross has 'broken' the sport. After another World Cup victory in Koksijde at the weekend, the Dutchman says that his sponsors pay him to win and not to make the sport 'exciting'.
Van der Poel has been on a prolific winning streak so far this season, winning almost every single race that he has entered. Last week, former rider Roger De Vlaeminck said that Van der Poel's dominance was putting people off and that he had made 'the sport a little bit broken'.
"It's not up to me to make 'cross exciting but to win as much as possible. My sponsors pay me for that, the interests are too high to make it exciting," Van der Poel told Sporza.
"I always try to compare it with other things, and if you see Barcelona winning, that's fun to watch as well, because they play soccer so nicely, you have to look at it from that perspective. But it's not new that someone dominates a sport. Look at the F1. I think Lewis Hamilton has won eight out of 10 GPs, but nothing is said about that. That I have to be a road racer to get rid of the nagging? I like to cross too much."
Though he has discounted the idea of becoming a full-time road racer in the near future, Van der Poel is laying out plans for the few road events that he will compete in next season. According to Sporza, Van der Poel will ride the newly renamed E3 BinckBank Classic [formerly E3 Harelbeke - ed.] and Gent-Wevelgem. Both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are also on the cards but the team must secure the necessary wildcards. His Corendon-Circus team manager Phillip Roodhooft suggested to Dutch publication AD that they could select the Amstel Gold Race instead.
Van der Poel will start putting in the longer efforts at training camp in Spain this week, with a mind to the Classics in spring. The 23-year-old, who rode a limited but successful road programme in 2018, takes confidence from his cyclo-cross rival Wout van Aert. The Belgian had a superlative spring campaign earlier this season.
"The focus will be mainly on endurance training, even more than usual," Van der Poel said of his training camp. "It is possible to ride 'cross and ride a spring, I knew that for a long time, but Wout confirmed that.
"In particular, his performance in the Strade Bianche was impressive, and in the other races he always sat in the front, and normally, if I am on form, I should be able to sit there."
As well as cyclo-cross and road, Van der Poel is also contesting mountain bike races. He won the national title this season and is hopeful of gaining selection in the discipline for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. For now, Van der Poel is happy to keep up his varied programme but accepts that he will have to cut something out as he progresses in his career.
"I am not pushed to choose one bike, that variety keeps me fresh and that's why I can keep up and the training is not really a sacrifice," he said. "If I could combine all disciplines throughout my career, I would do it, but at some point, I will have to drop something, and as I see it now, that might be mountain biking."
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