Mathieu van der Poel, synonymous with versatility and talent in the cycling world, has recently unfolded his winter plans, aiming to participate in 10 to 15 cyclocross races and defend his world title in Tabor. However, Van der Poel is standing at a crossroads as his summer and Olympic aspirations remain in the air, tangled in the complexity of balancing road racing and mountain biking for the upcoming Paris events.
Back on the grind, Van der Poel is not wasting any time, having already marked his return with a victory at the Madrid Criterium last Sunday. His training regime extends to Spain, where he will embark on an intense two-month cyclocross journey starting in December.
“My training wheels are back on as I gear up for the cyclocross season,” Van der Poel shared in a candid conversation with La Gazzetta dello Sport in Madrid. His day was brimming with activities, from autograph sessions to exhilarating exhibition races in the city's heart.
Van der Poel’s cyclocross season will follow a similar trajectory to the previous year, climaxing at the world championships. “Cyclocross has been a part of my life since childhood. It shares a kinship with classic road racing, with the primary difference being the extended racing duration,” he explained.
Cyclocross typically sees racers participating in up to 40 events during winter. However, Van der Poel, alongside contemporaries like Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock, adopts a more balanced approach. They strategically intertwine road training with cyclocross, utilizing the explosive efforts required in the latter to enhance their performance in spring Classics.
Van der Poel's Triumphs and Aspirations
Van der Poel is no stranger to victory, having clinched his fifth cyclocross world title in Hoogerheide last winter, followed by triumphs in Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, and the World Championships road race in Glasgow.
Looking forward, Van der Poel is eager to dominate the Classics in his rainbow jersey, “Winning a Classic while donning the rainbow jersey is a dream I’m chasing,” he affirmed. The path to Paris 2024 is laden with challenges as Van der Poel aspires to compete in mountain biking and road racing.
His preparation includes a series of mountain bike races in early 2024, aimed at refining his skills and securing an optimal starting position. However, this ambition introduces a complex puzzle into his season’s planning, potentially clashing with significant road racing events, including the Tour de France.
“The Olympic year is peculiar, and we are still piecing together my calendar,” he concluded, leaving fans and enthusiasts eagerly awaiting the final unveiling of his plans.