Van der Poel: Winning is not as easy as everybody thinks

Ronde van Vlaanderen 2022 - Tour of Flanders - 106th Edition - Antwerp - Oudenaarde 272,5 km - 03/04/2022 - Paterberg - Tadej Pogacar (SLO - UAE Team Emirates) - Mathieu Van Der Poel (NED - Alpecin - Fenix) - photo Nico Vereecken/PN/SprintCyclingAgency©2022
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) grits his teeth as he chases Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) up the Paterberg (Image credit: Sprint Cycling Agency)

"Winning is not as easy as everybody thinks," Mathieu van der Poel said, an hour or so after he had notched up his second Tour of Flanders victory in three years. All through his career, the Dutchman has made the winning business look disarmingly straightforward, toggling between disciplines with remarkable facility and picking up bouquets almost as a matter of course.

Here, for once, the swan could clearly be seen paddling furiously beneath the surface. On the final time up the Paterberg, Van der Poel briefly looked to have lost contact with his breakaway companion Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). As the gradient bit, Van der Poel appeared to be struggling to keep his gear turning over, but he seemed almost to turn back time, straining from the saddle and inching his way back up to the two-time winner's wheel.

As if that visual impression weren't enough, the numbers Van der Poel posted to Strava as he waited to mount the podium seemed to confirm that following Pogačar through the Flemish Ardennes is beyond the reach of most. The Alpecin-Fenix rider's maximum power output was an eye-watering 1400 watts.

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.