Van der Poel is a shadow of himself in Tour: ‘I can’t burn ahead’ | NOW

Mathieu van der Poel saw the fifth stage as one of his greatest chances of a stage win in this Tour de France, but the 27-year-old rider was completely out of touch on Wednesday. His disappointing day in northern France fits into a very difficult Tour for the time being.

In the shadow of the Lille Grand Palais, Van der Poel already gives a profit warning before the start of the fifth Tour stage. “In yesterday’s stage it has become painfully clear that I do not have the legs I hoped for. I rode far below my level,” he says. “I hope for a turnaround, but it will really have to be a lot better to be able to compete for the stage win today.”

More than four hours later, the leader of Alpecin-Deceuninck has to conclude that no turning point has taken place. On the contrary: his story has only become more negative. “Instead of being better, I was worse today than the past few days. I am currently a shadow of myself and I can’t get ahead.”

Van der Poel had to unload from the pack with 40 kilometers to go. Last spring’s number nine in Paris-Roubaix finished only 81st on Wednesday, almost four minutes behind winner Simon Clarke.

“Normally this stage suits me very well. I noticed very quickly that the weather was not working”, said ‘VDP’. “I couldn’t even move forward on the cobblestones. Then it becomes a difficult and not so fun story.”

Mathieu van der Poel could not distinguish himself on his terrain, the cobblestones.

Mathieu van der Poel could not distinguish himself on his terrain, the cobblestones.

Mathieu van der Poel could not distinguish himself on his terrain, the cobblestones.

Photo: AFP

Van der Poel hopes his form will improve

Van der Poel is driving two big rounds this season for the first time, after having completed the entire Giro d’Italia in May. That was the first time he ran a three-week course. In the small five weeks between the Tour of Italy and the Tour de France, he did not drive any competitions, but trained at home in Belgium and at height in Livigno, Italy.

“I didn’t feel great at that training camp,” says Van der Poel. “Actually, only the week before the Tour was positive. Then I started to ride a little better at home. But I haven’t reached the level I have in mind for a while and that is frustrating.”

In the opening time trial of the Tour, the winner of the Tour of Flanders still finished fifth, but Van der Poel already said that he was not satisfied. In the days that followed, his feeling only got worse. “The two flat stages in Denmark were easy, but I noticed that I was immediately on the limit when we started to drive fast. I have no idea what caused it. For me it’s a big question mark too.”

The team management of Alpecin-Deceuninck did not see the dip in form for its leader. “After the first stage, we did not have the idea that it was dramatic with Mathieu,” sports director Christoph Roodhooft said to “Well, it’s not working. Maybe we haven’t done anything wrong ourselves and this is just what it is. Then it’s also possible, huh. We currently live on hope every day.”

Roodhooft does not expect Van der Poel to step down in the short term. “I don’t think so, but we’ll see.” The Dutchman himself intends to continue fighting. “There is not much else to do. I hope my form improves and I will find my good legs, otherwise it will be a long Tour.”

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