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Van der Poel says a wet Paris-Roubaix would be 'quite cool'

Mathieu van der Poel during Paris-Roubaix recon
Mathieu van der Poel during Paris-Roubaix recon (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ahead of his long-awaited debut at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, Alpecin-Fenix leader Mathieu van der Poel called the idea of a wet race "quite cool".

The Dutchman, who completed a partial course reconnaissance on Thursday taking in several cobbled sectors up to the famous Trouée d'Arenberg, did, however, temper his words with more cautious declarations about luck and crashes, which can be a major part of the race.

Speaking at a pre-race press conference, Van der Poel said that some caution will be needed should the race be held in wet conditions, for the first time since 2002, this weekend.

"I think it's quite cool if it rains but yeah, it will dangerous, for sure," Van der Poel said. "I understood what [Philippe Gilbert] said about if you can avoid the crashing. [The race] is already a lot and I think it's always the case in Roubaix. You have to be very cautious and try not to have a flat tyre or a crash and if it's wet then it's even more the case.

"I think if it's dry, it's already a pretty hard race. If it's wet, it's even more technical but yeah, the problem is you're riding with a big bunch and if they crash in front of you it's difficult to avoid it. I think it will be cool if it's safe enough to ride a wet Roubaix once. I think it's also that if you can stay out of trouble then it's quite OK with cobbles."

Van der Poel, who is a four-time cyclo-cross world champion, said that he wasn't sure if those 'cross skills would help him in the event of a wet and muddy Roubaix, noting that even if he was at an advantage in that regard, he'd still be at least partially relying on the other riders around him being able to stay out of trouble, too.

"It's difficult to say. I don't know yet," Van der Poel said when asked about his 'cross ability. "Like I said, if you're riding in a bunch, you also have to deal with other riders. It's going to slippery and hectic. I think it's OK if you can handle your bike but it's not always the case that you have the cards in your own hands.

"I think if there's a lot of tailwind and the cobbles are wet then I think the race can happen quite quick as well. Then it's just a matter of staying out of trouble all day. Like the other riders say, if you can manage that then it's already the first step towards riding a final."

Van der Poel will be one of four Paris-Roubaix debutants representing Alpecin-Fenix on Sunday, while the four riders who have raced the Hell of the North have eight appearances between them. The most experienced on the team is Silvan Dillier, who has raced three editions and was second to Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in 2018.

When asked if his Swiss teammate had given him any advice on riding the race, Van der Poel said that there was a limit to how much one ride could teach another about Paris-Roubaix and reiterated his point about the importance of luck.

"For sure, he can give some advice, but I think that riding cobbles is also something special as well, and when he was second, he came from the breakaway so it's different racing, for sure. If you just do the recon, you already know what to do and I think the most important thing is to try not to have bad luck but that's not always in your own hands, of course."

Van der Poel, who has in recent months been set back by a back injury that has bothered him since May, said that he's currently not feeling any pain in his back, having completed four race days recently – including last Sunday's UCI Road World Championships in Leuven – and returned to the peloton after a layoff following the Tour de France and Tokyo Olympics.

"I knew it was going to be difficult to get top shape there," he said of the Worlds. "But I was just hoping to – maybe with some luck in the final – try and get the jersey but it didn't work out so I hope that race added a little bit to my shape and that I hope I can end the season in a nice way.

"The shape was not 100 per cent and I think that everybody who knows me saw that in my racing style that I was not able to put in some attacks that I usually do. The shape was quite OK, and I hope to do a little bit better on Sunday, but we'll see – it's a different race as well.

"My back is not at 100 per cent yet, but it doesn't disturb me on the bike anymore."

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Daniel Ostanek

Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content on Cyclingnews and takes on live race text coverage throughout the season.


Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Tro-Bro Léon, Strade Bianche, and the Vuelta a España.