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If you were thinking Mathieu van der Poel had been quiet the past few weeks, don’t worry, it won’t last long.
After a slow start to the summer season, van der Poel is hot off the back of a training camp in the Italian mountains and back to “top form” with his major goals of Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders now looming large in the eyeline.
Having sat out the world championships, the Alpecin-Fenix star is due to start the BinckBank Tour on Tuesday, with the five-day Belgian race set to serve as a final tune-up for October’s heavy classics.
“I put the finishing touches to my preparation while on an internship in Livigno,” van der Poel told Wielierflits. “I want to take wins from this BinckBank Tour. I think I’ve got my top form.”
Van der Poel has flown relatively under the radar – by his own headline-stealing standards – since racing resumed in August.
The Dutchman came away from his August block of one-day races with “less than [he] hoped for,” with top-20s at Strade Bianche, Milano-Sanremo and Il Lombardia suggesting he was still a few watts from his best. Since the racing restart, the only results likely to leave a lasting mark on van der Poel’s illustrious palmarès are a victory at the Dutch national championships, a blistering stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico, and a podium finish at Gran Piemonte.
“I expected more from that Italian block in August in particular,” van der Poel said. “Apparently something must have gone wrong in that corona period.”
Having raced on the road from February through October last year before almost immediately getting his feet dirty in the cyclocross season, seemingly-unstoppable van der Poel hit a divet this year, with only a low-key appearance at Volta ao Algarve before coronvirus stopped all racing.
“I think I did too much. I remained too motivated to race,” he said of his spell in lockdown. “During training I tried to compensate for that lack of race rhythm by riding faster. I haven’t had it easy either, if I’m honest. In recent years I was busy all year round. Cyclocross, on the road, mountain biking. Suddenly everything fell away. It wasn’t all that easy.”
Van der Poel’s blistering hilltop attack to take victory on the seventh stage of Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this month gave the Dutchman some hope, and now, after an intense training block in Livigno, he feels he’s got the motor running on all cylinders again.
“At the Dutch championships and also during Tirreno-Adriatico I felt the form only getting better, which resulted in a stage win,” van der Poel said. “And after my training camp, I feel to be really top for what is to come: this BinckBank Tour, Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.”
“If I can win one of these, we will immediately talk very differently about my season.”