Mathieu van der Poel to skip cyclocross world title defense

The Dutchman has been plagued by a back injury since May 2021, but his team believes the injury will heal with rest.

Photo: DAVID STOCKMAN/Belga/AFP via Getty Images

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Mathieu van der Poel will not defend his cyclocross world title.

The Alpecin-Fenix team confirmed Wednesday the Dutchman will miss the world championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on January 29-30, due to lingering back issues.

“I can’t say much about it, it is what it is,” van der Poel said. “Because of that back pain, I haven’t been able to reach my desired level since the Tour. I just want that to be in the past. The only remedy turns out to be a longer rest period.

“It would therefore be foolish to interrupt this period again and still try to make it to the world championships,” he continued. “We all agree on that. Even though it is very bitter – I have participated in the world CX championships 10 consecutive times – not being able to defend my title in the States is a real downer.”

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Van der Poel made his cyclocross season debut at Dendermonde at the end of December, where he finished second. However, he pulled out of a race the following day and was later diagnosed with a “swelling on an intervertebral disc.”

He has not raced since and is sitting out of racing for an indeterminate period while he recovers.

No return date has been announced but he will not race cyclocross again this season.

And that means he won’t be traveling to the United States to race for the rainbow bands.

The Fayetteville cyclocross worlds could be without two of the sport’s biggest stars. With van der Poel sidelined, all eyes now turn to Wout Van Aert.

The Jumbo-Visma star said he will make a decision about his worlds plans following the Belgian national cyclocross championships later this month.

‘I’m not worried about the future of my career’

Van der Poel had to delay his cyclocross season start already after injuring his knee while riding with a friend.

Despite this latest hurdle, van der Poel is not concerned about his long-term prospects and believes that he can return from this back injury.

“I’m not worried about the future of my career, but of course, it frustrates me now not knowing how long this rest period will last,” he said. “We’ll only set a date and goals if we can do so in a substantiated manner. Until then, I’ll do what I can.”

Van der Poel picked up the back injury in May of last year at the opening round of the MTB World Cup in Albstadt. After crashing out of the Olympic mountain bike race in August, he missed much of the latter part of his 2021 road and mountain bike season, only returning for a small number of road races in September and October.

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Due to the injury, van der Poel has been forced to sit out several days at team training caps, missing parts of them altogether. By pulling the Dutchman from the world championships, the team wants to give him a clear run at recovery.

A statement from the team managers Christoph and Philip Roodhooft said there is no update on van der Poel’s state but that it will improve with rest.

“We want to optimize the healing process and that is not possible if there is time pressure for a possible participation in the World Championships in Fayetteville,” a statement read. “Hence the decision to end his cyclocross campaign. Medically there is no news to report. Mathieu respects the prescribed rest, and the injury is monitored by the medical staff and the treating specialist.

“Speculations about whether it will take weeks or months are groundless. It is currently impossible to predict how fast the swelling will disappear.

“The treating doctors agree that it will effectively disappear with rest. That’s the most important thing, both for Mathieu and for the team. He will only start his road season when the injury is over, and when he’s been able to prepare for it properly. At this moment it makes no sense to pinpoint a date on it. We will only do that if it does.”


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