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All eyes will be on Mathieu van der Poel, but the Dutch team brings one of the deepest and explosive lineups to Sunday’s elite men’s race.
The Dutch will race Sunday with a dangerous, multi-pronged squad that could disrupt the script in Wollongong at the UCI Road World Championships.
After an uneven road racing season, Van der Poel will race for the ultimate redemption Sunday in his quest to win the rainbow jersey.
“It is such a difficult race to win,” Van der Poel said. “And I’ve only participated twice. That was not bad in itself, but everyone knows the story of Harrogate, and in Leuven I came back after my back injury. It wasn’t bad twice. It was certainly not a fiasco, but I hope to be closer on Sunday.”
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Despite being such a prolific winner, the world title has so far eluded Van der Poel. In fact, his elite men’s worlds track record doesn’t match his otherwise shining palmares.
In 2019, Van der Poel suddenly bonked in the cold, wet race of attrition in Yorkshire, and he missed 2020 with a back injury before having flat legs late in 2021, where he finished eighth.
“I am also getting older, the chances of grabbing that rainbow jersey are getting smaller every year,” Van der Poel told Het Nieuwsblad.
Van der Poel is also coming off another uneven season, with highs in the spring with victory at the Tour of Flanders and a stage in win and pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia, but later he left the Tour de France without winning a stage.
He returned to racing in late August, and promptly reeled off three wins in five races.
Everyone knows no one can count out Van der Poel.
“Sometimes things don’t go your way and the human body is not a machine,” he said. “It can sometimes be difficult, but I do feel that I am good. Otherwise I would not have traveled. You never know if it’s enough for Sunday. But I will go for it.”
More than one card to play
It’s going to be more than the Van der Poel show on Sunday for the Dutch team.
Bauke Mollema, Dylan van Baarle, and even Taco van der Hoorn could all deliver a podium ride behind the favorites.
Last year, Van Baarle “saved” the worlds for the heavily favored Dutch team after Van der Poel couldn’t match the late-race accelerations in Leuven.
Mollema, already a winner of some big one-day races including Il Lombardia, certainly has the pedigree to be an outsider for victory.
Van der Hoorn, who was second in an emotional stage at the Tour de France across the cobbles, is an eternal attacker who will likely be cut loose late in the race.
The rest of the team is stacked with helpers who can cover moves, mark early breakaways, and then ride tempo to control the race until the decisive later laps.
Netherlands elite men’s team
Mathieu van der Poel
Taco Van der Hoorn
Dylan Van Baarle