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Mathieu van der Poel is injury-free and raring to go, according to his physiotherapist.
After taking a prolonged break from racing to iron out the kinks in a nagging back injury, van der Poel is in the gym and preparing to dive into a muddy winter of cyclocross.
“He is doing very well,” van der Poel’s physio David Bombeke told Het Nieuwsblad this weekend. “That break has clearly benefited Mathieu – but he is someone who likes to train. His back, that’s no longer an issue.”
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Van der Poel had been struggling with nagging back pains ever since his cartwheeling crash at the Olympic mountain bike race this summer.
The Dutchman was forced to sit out the MTB worlds as he struggled to get on top of the problem. He only returned to action six weeks after the Games, nursing the injury through a month-long spell of racing before finishing third at Paris-Roubaix.
Bombeke explained that the dramatic crash in Tokyo was the final piece of a problem that had been long in the making as van der Poel bounced from discipline to discipline all year round.
“It was a problem of an accumulation of years,” Bombeke said. “Mountain biking, cyclocross, road racing, stress, his fall at the Games, the Tour de France… We never saw it as something alarming. We were just never able to deal with that problem thoroughly because he could never really take a rest. So it was a form of overload.
“We treated him like a new patient and looked at how we can address his weaknesses. He has done exercises for the past two years, but more for maintenance. Mathieu lives on adrenaline and we are not going to be able to change that right away. So he had to pay a bit of the price for that with his back.”
With van der Poel now given the green-light and raring to race, the CX worlds in Fayetteville will be sitting square in his crosshairs. Although his full cyclocross program is yet to be confirmed, the 26-year-old is all-in for a trip to the U.S. to race the worlds in January and will likely return to action in the next month.
If MvdP can romp through six hours of slick pavé at Paris-Roubaix while carrying an injury, what’s he going to be like pain-free?