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Van der Poel: What are we training for in the next few weeks?

LAGOS PORTUGAL FEBRUARY 19 Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands and Team AlpecinFenix during the 46th Volta ao Algarve 2020 Stage 1 a 1956km stage from Portimo to Lagos VAlgarve2020 on February 19 2020 in Lagos Portugal Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Van der Poel at the Volta ao Algarve in February (Image credit: Getty Images)

With the cycling calendar for the remainder of spring, and likely beyond, up in the air due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, riders everywhere are wondering how to plan for an uncertain racing future.

Among them is Alpecin-Fenix star Mathieu van der Poel, who had only raced at the Volta ao Algarve before flu counted him out of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then race cancellations ruined his March plans.

The Dutchman still has the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne on his calendar, but with May's Giro d'Italia already postponed, it's unlikely that those April races will be run.

"Nobody can say when the next race will be," Van der Poel told Het Nieuwsblad. "That makes it difficult. What are we training for? Even the Olympics isn't a sure thing anymore.

"As a rider there's nothing you can do about it. So, I try not to get too worked up about it. Those first cancellations in Italy I didn't even think it was a disaster. I had been ill anyway and needed time.

"But now. The hardest part is – what are we going to train for the next few weeks? To what point are you going to peak? Nobody knows at the moment when we can even start again."

Van der Poel said he's not giving up on spring yet though, even if the races he's targeting are likely to be postponed. The Tour of Flanders is still standing – just about – but with its cancellation looming, he wondered exactly when racing could start again. He said that it would be hard to compete there given the lack of race days, in any case.

"It'd be very punishing if we'd still race there," he said. "But that just it: what will the first race be? Roubaix? The Ardennes Classics? If that's the case, I'll definitely put everything on it.

"I won't give up spring yet. But it does make it difficult to train. In a way it would be better if they give us clarity as soon as possible and say that there will be no more spring races. Then we can all start resting now and rebuild towards summer, for example."

Van der Poel added that he'll continue training in the meantime, saying that after his illness he has the motivation to work and build a foundation once more.

"For some riders, motivating themselves will be difficult indeed. In a way I'm still lucky – because of my illness I can use all the training to lay a foundation again. That's what I'm going to do the next few days: make hours, train, keep me fit."

"It's all about having to wait and see. That's the most difficult thing, that total uncertainty. The only thing I know is that tomorrow I will sit on my bike and put in the hours. But why? For what? Do you know?"