Analysis

Bluntly confirmed by his entire entourage. It could hardly be otherwise given his performance in recent weeks. Victory in Milan-San Remo, second in the Tour of Flanders and victory in Paris-Roubaix. Mathieu van der Poel shows the best of himself in the spring monuments at the age of 28.

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As a VIP rider for the Rabobank cycling team, father Adrie van der Poel was present at the most important cycling races for years. At that time, Father Adrie was not very enthusiastic about the training project declared sacred by the banking team itself. And he very occasionally, usually unofficially, he dared to say it.

When his sons David and Mathieu received an offer to compete in the Rabobank U23 team, he spoke to them in such a fatherly way that they understood that the Rabo program was not the ideal path for everyone. At too young an age, Rabo’s route was too professional and too crowded with top talent. He saw Rabo’s talents more often on defense than offense. Whereas at that age it’s better to race with the best ever rather than ride a bike in a tactical straitjacket.

Subsequently, the path of gradualism was crucial for Adrie. He knew from personal experience that he had ridden too many races in his early years as a professional cyclist, and that it had broken him a bit in the latter part of his career. In fact, he hoped that Mathieu could develop in such a way that he could still progress physically until the age of thirty. With brothers Christoph and Philip Roodhooft, he found the perfect team leaders who wanted to take Mathieu’s development step by step.

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watch the show MVDP in the early years with the Roodhooft brothers. He was not chosen for the big races, but for a modest program with smaller races of the Tour of Belgium, Tour du Limousin and, for example, the Tour Alsace. In those competitions, the motto was: if you have a number on your back, you run to the limit and if you train, you do it to improve.

Of course, a father can have 1001 plans, but it always depends on the talent and ambition of his offspring. In that sense, Mathieu van der Poel has the right mix of genes and perseverance from his father Adrie and his grandfather Raymond Poulidor. With that talent and the necessary work ethic and, above all, the desire to win, MVDP from the lower categories he always left his mark in the races and crosses where he was at the start. Maybe it was a little too easy at times.

José De Cauwer also confirmed it. In my opinion, the former rider, sports director and national coach is by far the best cycling analyst today. I visited de Cauwer at his home in the last month of the previous calendar year for an interview for the spring issue of hero magazine. Then De Cauwer said very convinced: “Write it down, 2023 will be the year of Mathieu van der Poel.”

According to the Belgian cycling expert, a cyclist starts with a blank sheet with dozens of laws that he must do, but there are also many other laws that he must not do. He just gave the ideal lifestyle for a professional cyclist.

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If you ride for a while, most cyclists will cross off certain things. The older you get, the more stripes there are on that sheet. As a result, only about 80% of the ideal lifestyle remains. The other 20% you have to absorb with experience and intelligence in the race.

However, if there are too many stripes, after several years you live too short of the ideal image to perform well. And then you start to doubt. “In cycling, nothing is more important than wanting to do it. Passion, drive, those are the most important building blocks for performance,” says De Cauwer.

Where, according to De Cauwer, Wout van Aert still has no lines on that sheet of paper after all these years, Mathieu van der Poel is his opposite in this regard. “If you look at that white sheet of conditions, Mathieu had already crossed out a lot of things. Maybe because sometimes everything was too easy for him. Meanwhile, he is busy erasing lines with an eraser. That is why he will be there in 2023 ”, assured De Cauwer.

Setbacks such as the plank during the Tokyo 2021 Olympic mountain bike race and the incident during the World Cup in Wollongong last winter motivated him to work harder. In fact, the confirmation was already there before the World Cup in Wollongong when he himself indicated in an interview that at his age there would not be much chance of winning the world title. The painful incident at the Australian hotel made him realize that he shouldn’t let his golden years in cycling take him away.

accomplished more than ever MVDP he realizes that his playtime is over. You can perfectly use his talent. But if he wants even more… So she had to approach things even more professionally.

A perfect move was to buy a house on the famous Cumbre des Sol (where Tom Dumoulin achieved his brilliant victory in the 2015 Vuelta a España) in Spain. Away from all the hustle and bustle and away from many distractions in the Belgian country. Also, the area around Calpe has much better training opportunities in terms of weather conditions and altimeters. This became his ideal place to prepare for this spring.

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Together with the Roodhooft brothers, a balanced program was worked out for the monuments in spring. He learned to race with the handbrake on at Tirreno-Adriatico, because he had to listen to his body in building his best form and he was not allowed to force anything.

Mathieu van der Poel’s professionalism is sometimes called into question, but anyone who has followed him and his team at Alpecin-Deceuninck in recent months can only say that nothing has been left to chance and that in all areas the best has been done. best in closet to achieve these results.

Father Adrie’s long-standing focus on getting his son Mathieu to his best in the second half of the 1920s, and Mathieu’s own realization that it really has to happen now, pays off in an incredible series of accomplishments. . Where before he would casually talk about his record and the prestige of certain victories, now the hunger for great success is evident in every fiber of his body.

In fact, his best years seem to have only just begun. Perhaps this is the best conclusion Dutch cycling can come to at the Vélodrome André Pétrieux in Roubaix on this sunny Easter Sunday in 2023.