From one Grand Tour to another. Moments after he completed the 2022 Giro d’Italia, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) confirmed he will be missing out on any racing whatsoever prior to a repeat ride in the Tour de France.
The winner of the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia and race leader for three days, Van der Poel has now completed his first Grand Tour in 57th place overall. However, the GC standing barely tells the full Giro story behind the Dutchman’s notably high-profile performance in the last three and half weeks.
As well as sprinting unsuccessfully against Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux) on stage 10 into Jesi, the 27-year-old also took part in no less than five breaks in the final two thirds of the race. The ultra-versatile Alpecin-Fenix racer then finished it off with a third place on the last day’s time trial.
But as Van der Poel told journalists in Verona on Sunday evening, he has no intentions either of making a GC bid in the future for such races, nor yet of doing any racing between Verona and the Tour de France start in Copenhagen in just over a month’s time.
“I missed out in the breaks and also the sprint against Girmay was close. But this has just been an amazing experience and I can be really happy with this Giro.”
“I will only be in Livigno” - for a high altitude camp - “and just do training before the Tour,” Van der Poel told reporters. He won a stage last July and wore the maillot jaune early on last year at the Tour. He even ruled out a bid to repeat his road-race victory in the 2020 Dutch National Championships, saying simply, “I feel better than expected after three weeks of racing but now I think I will get some rest.”
After completing the Giro, as he had promised, Van der Poel said despite a lack of a second stage victory, his success rate and standout performances had been such that he went away with a full sense of mission accomplished.
“For sure, I came here with one big goal and that was the pink jersey, and to win two other stages with the team was really nice. Of course, I was aiming for a second stage win, but I think I can be happy with my race.”
After abandoning the Tour de France mid-race last summer, what Van der Poel has discovered in his second, and first completed, Grand Tour on the far side of the Alps is that the Giro is, as he put it, “a more relaxed event, less stressful. It’s been nice to race.”
“There were some special moments, particularly on the Fedaia [on stage 20], I will remember that for a long time.”
Van der Poel took the time to praise his young Italian teammate Stefano Oldani, who took a breakthrough stage win, one of three clinched by Alpecin-Fenix in the race. But he said he had no idea why, judging from the massive cheers of support he received at Giro starts and finishes, Van der Poel has been adopted by the local tifosi as one of their own.
In the final chapter of a running social media joke throughout the Giro, in Verona after the final stage Van der Poel was even gifted a 'Hawaiian pizza' with pineapple by fans. Pineapple is one of his favourite toppings, and which many Italians consider to be a heretical foreign addition. But Van der Poel, it seems, can do no wrong in Italy.
His thoughts, in any case, are now heading towards the summer and the Tour, but despite his remarkable multiple mountain breakaways in the Giro’s last week, Van der Poel said he would not be contemplating a GC bid in a Grand Tour.
“No, it’s really something I’m not going to do. I prefer the Classics and one-day races,” he stated categorically.
As for that elusive second stage win in the Giro, rather than analyse a particular break where he might have done things differently, Van der Poel smoothed it all over by saying: “It’s always difficult for sure. The sprint against Girmay also was close. But this has just been an amazing experience and I can be really happy with this Giro.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.