Mathieu van der Poel leaves the Tour de France
Mathieu van der Poel did not take the start of stage 9 of the Tour de France. The Dutch Alpecin-Fenix rider has other goals on his mind, most notably the Olympic mountain bike race on July 26.
“I will unfortunately not start today. We decided with the team it’s in my best interest to quit the race and focus on the Olympics now,” he said in an interview before the start this morning.
Van der Poel started his very first Grand Tour participation with a bang. On the opening stage in Landerneau he didn’t have the legs to follow Julian Alaphilippe, but on the second stage to Mur-de-Bretagne, Van der Poel took the win and with the bonus seconds he took on the first climb up the Mur, he also took also the yellow jersey. It was an emotional moment honoring his grandfather Raymond Poulidor who never managed to do so.
In the stage 5 time trial, Van der Poel surprised himself and the cycling world by holding on to yellow, and in Friday’s stage to Vierzon he animated the race by going in the breakaway and gaining minutes on most of his rivals. The general classification was never a goal for the Dutch multitalent though, because, as he was recorded saying, he stood no chance against the climbers. The first Alpine stage on Saturday showed it was too much. Van der Poel lost almost 22 minutes and the yellow jersey to Tadej Pogačar. He did however enjoy himself and called the Tour de France ‘kinda fun.’
“It’s been an amazing first week for the team. We won two stages and kept the yellow jersey for six days. I think we can be really proud but it was never my goal to go for a general classification.
“I am going to take some to recover from this first week,” he said before today’s start. “We knew it would have been difficult for me. I have some other goals. Due to Covid it was too hard to do a whole Tour and be at my best in Tokyo. I will be back next year to go to Paris.”