Mathieu van der Poel taking long view on classics after Strade Bianche bust

MVDP downplays Tirreno-Adriatico expectations: 'The best version of myself is yet to come.'

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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Mathieu van der Poel is taking the long view on his classics season after a deflated performance at Strade Bianche with 15th in the chasing bunch nearly two minutes behind Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers).

The Alpecin Deceuninck star admitted he didn’t have the legs to follow the winning moves Saturday, and he is also quick to downplay expectations at Tirreno-Adriatico, which kickstarts Monday with a time trial.

For “MVDP,” all eyes are on the northern classics.

“The feeling was certainly not bad. I personally did not expect the best version of myself either,” Van der Poel said of Strade Bianche.

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“I was good enough to race, but not to win in such a difficult race at the start of my season.

“I still need some race hardness and that is normal,” he told reporters. “I survived the most difficult gravel sections well, but my legs were not good enough to follow the decisive attack.”

Did the stripes cost him on the white roads?

Van der Poel knew he wouldn’t be at his peak for Strade Bianche. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Pidcock’s bet to skip the cyclocross worlds paid off with a stunning victory Saturday on the dusty roads of Tuscany.

Van der Poel wanted another set of cyclocross stripes, and he knew the runway between Hoogerheide and Siena was going to be a short one.

“I’m not disappointed at all,” he said in a press conference. “I will continue to build on my form in Tirreno-Adriatico. That is exactly what we had in mind when we put together my program.

“We knew that the period between the cyclocross worlds and Strade Bianche was going to be short. I’ve tried to be good here, but the best version of myself is yet to come.”

Slow build for northern classics boil

Van der Poel is already thinking about the northern classics. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Van der Poel also played down the hype that he’ll be ripping the legs off anyone at Tirreno-Adriatico, which runs through Sunday.

“Two years ago I was able to make a lot of spectacle here. I think I’m going to race more calculated now,” he said in a pre-race press conference. “The form was also better two years ago. Now it’s only the second race I’m driving on the road. I still have to grow to my top form.

“I will mainly use this Tirreno to be top in the Flemish classics, which are my main goal for the spring.”

Van der Poel and his Alpecin Deceuninck team are off to a slow start in 2023.

In fact, the newly elevated WorldTour team is the only squad among the 18-team league that’s yet to hit the podium or win a race in 2023.

Van der Poel and Co. are betting on big Flanders campaign will soon put all the doubters to bed.

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