Mathieu van der Poel’s hopes of Olympic gold were dashed Monday afternoon when the Dutch multi-discipline star crashed on the first of seven laps in the men’s cross country mountain bike race.
Van der Poel misjudged the landing off the Sakura Drop feature on the opening lap, flew over his handlebars, and landed hard on his back and side. Eventual race winner Tom Pidcock (Great Britain) narrowly avoided colliding with Van der Poel, but managed to stay upright.
Van der Poel spent roughly a minute on the ground, nursing his ribs, before gingerly getting back on his bike and continuing on for most of the next hour. The 26-year-old eventually withdrew from the race on lap 5 and was then seen sitting on the grass in the pits area, in obvious pain.
The section Van der Poel crashed on included a ramp during training but that ramp was removed for the race. Dutch media AD Sportwereld reports that Van der Poel told his teammate Milan Vader that he thought the ramp was still there.
“It might be harsh to say but we talked about this during lunch,” Vader told NOS. Mathieu said: ‘Gosh everyone is jumping there.’ I asked: ‘won’t you?’ And he said ‘no, I will roll down that ramp’. I said then that at the 2019 test event they had removed the ramp during the race.”
Van der Poel said on Twitter: “I didn’t know. The ramp was there during the recon. I only heard they removed it during the test event”
He also tweeted to Dutch journalist Thijs Zonneveld when asked if he was told before the race, “I knew nothing. Now in hospital for pictures. Too much pain to finish.”
Van der Poel has gone to the hospital to undergo examination on his injured hip. He later posted on Instagram:
Van der Poel came into the Tokyo MTB race as one of the favourites for gold, alongside fellow multi-discipline star Pidcock. Less than a month ago Van der Poel was leading the Tour de France after a swashbuckling stage win on stage 2. Earlier this year he won his fourth cyclocross world title.