Mathieu van der Poel could be out for months

Mathieu van der Poel has to take complete rest and potentially misses out on the spring classics as well as the cyclocross world championships.

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After the announcement on Wednesday that Mathieu van der Poel would not be able to defend his cyclocross world title later this month in the United States, more news about his back injury has come to light. The Alpecin-Fenix team managers are expecting their star rider to be out for months, which means he will likely miss the Spring classics. He needs to regain full fitness first, the brothers Roodhooft state in Het Nieuwsblad.

The injury Van der Poel is suffering from is called retrolisthesis. “One of the discs in his back didn’t fully function as a shock absorber resulting in less movement in his lower back,” Van der Poel’s team doctor Guy De Schutter explained. “The ligaments and muscles around became overloaded and the disc itself inflamed. The problems started in the Tour de Suisse and were worsened by that crash in [Tokyo]. The systems in his lower back need a complete reset.”

Before the current cyclocross world champion can start to create stability in his lower back he must first be pain-free. “Then we can start to put pressure on it again and only then we can start building on basic fitness very slowly and monitor that very closely,” De Schutter explained to Het Nieuwsblad. “This process takes a lot of time so we are not putting a deadline on it.”

“Rest is the only remedy. There is no need to have surgery or injections,” team manager Philip Roodhooft continued. “Resting doesn’t necessarily mean only lying flat on your back. It means doing things that don’t cause any pain at all. Rest is a bigger challenge to Mathieu than being active but he has no other choice right now.”

The team relies heavily on Mathieu van der Poel to bring in results and enough UCI points to get wildcard entry into all the World Tour races. The 27-year old Dutchman won one in four of the team’s 33 victories, in addition to many high finishes in major races, Van der Poel brought in a large chunk of the UCI points needed to top the Pro Team ranking in 2021. Roodhooft is well aware missing Van der Poel is hard for his team but must keep in mind the long term future of his rider.

“Mathieu is 27 years young and still has a long time to go,” Roodhooft said. “The focus is on regaining full fitness right now and we don’t think about his program. It could be Strade, Tour of Flanders, Tour de France or Il Lombardia. Meanwhile we will try to get the best results possible with the rest of the team.”

“The Tour of Flanders on 3 April seems far away but is just around the corner,” sports manager Christoph Roodhooft added. “To build form you need seven to eight weeks and then you see it will be close. We won’t start to early and cause this pain to become chronic for Mathieu. That’s for the athlete Van der Poel but also for the person [behind the athlete] who hopefully has a long life ahead of him.”

“As a rider Mathieu has a lot to win still but nothing to prove anymore,” Christoph Roodhooft concluded. “Of course we prefer one month of rest instead of three but we rather start two weeks too late than half an hour too soon.”

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