Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) flies through the Trouée d'Arenberg during the 2021 Paris-Roubaix, where he would eventually finish third.

Mathieu van der Poel’s physio warns against overload

Mathieu van der Poel’s back injury was likely a result of overdoing it, but is “no longer an issue” as he returns to training.

by Kit Nicholson

photography by Cor Vos

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is back training after a four-week break, and working closely with sports physiotherapist David Bombeke who is paying close attention to the Dutch all-rounder’s back.

“He is doing very well,” Bombeke told Het Nieuwsblad. “The break has clearly benefited Mathieu, but he is someone who likes to train.”

The latter part of Van der Poel’s 2021 season was heavily affected by an existing back issue that was exacerbated by his fall at the Olympics. Doubts were cast on his form even after he took victory at the Antwerp Port Epic, his first race on the road since stage 8 of the Tour de France, and his very presence at the World Champs and Paris-Roubaix were in question.

In the end, his back held up and he finished his road season with eighth in Leuven and third at an historic edition of the ‘Hell of the North’.

The current cyclocross world champion is expected to race over winter, but for now, he and his team are taking advantage of a bit of down time.

“His back? That’s no longer an issue,” Bombeke said. “That was a problem of an accumulation over years. Mountain biking, cyclocross, racing on the road, stress, his fall at the [Olympic] Games, the Tour… Actually, we never saw it as something alarming. We were just never able to deal with the problem thoroughly because he could never really take a rest. So it was a form of overload.”

It’s common practice for professional riders to be physically and medically screened in the off-season, with particular attention given to heart health and existing injuries. With his back in mind, Van der Poel’s physical condition is being thoroughly explored.

“We screened him from scratch,” Bombeke explained. “We treated him like a new patient and looked at how we can address his weaknesses. He has done exercises for the past two years, but more for maintenance. Mathieu lives on adrenaline and we are not going to be able to change that right away. So he had to pay the price for that with his back.”

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