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The 192km Druivenkoers Overijse wasn’t enough for Mathieu van der Poel on Wednesday. The Dutchman decided to ride home and add another 65k onto his day.
Van der Poel returned to competition at the Belgian one-day race, having been out of action since abandoning the Tour de France at the start of the second week.
Aside from a puncture with about 55km to go, the Alpecin-Fenix rider had a relatively quiet day on the bike in the Flemish Brabant.
In the end, he put his efforts into working for teammate Jasper Philipsen, who finished fourth in the sprint after Arkéa-Samsic’s Matis Louvel took a surprise win from a breakaway.
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Van der Poel had a delayed start to the 2022 season as he took time out to recover from a back injury. He has packed in a hectic schedule since then, finishing third at Milan-San Remo, taking the win at the Tour of Flanders, and then going on to win the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia.
Despite never having finished a grand tour in his career, Van der Poel took on the ambitious challenge of riding the Giro and the Tour de France back-to-back. He excited fans with his aggressive racing at the Giro, though he was not able to add to his stage 1 win.
— Alpecin-Deceuninck Cycling Team (@AlpecinDCK) August 24, 2022
Fifth place in the opening time trial of the Tour de France looked like it was the start of something good for Van der Poel, but he struggled to find his top form as the race progressed. Following some disappointing performances in the opening week, he eventually pulled out en route to the Col du Granon on stage 11.
He later suggested that he hadn’t given himself enough recovery time between the two grand tours and may have pushed himself too much in an altitude training camp in June.
Since the Tour de France, he has taken it relatively easy and has only recently begun pushing himself on the bike. The hilly Druivenkoers Overijse was an opportunity to get some tough riding in the legs as he looks to return to his peak for the final road races of the season, including the world championships.
“I hesitated for a long time between this race and the Tour of Germany. The stages were perhaps a little too easy to ride ‘normally’ there, while I now need the hardness,” Van der Poel told reporters at the start, according to Dutch publication Wielerflits. “I also want to know where I stand. I mainly spent a lot of time in the gym and for the rest – I don’t put everything on Strava – I did try to work on my base for two weeks. But not very intensively yet. That’s what I’m trying to get into with the races now.”