Dendermonde - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands / Alpecin-Fenix) - pictured during Worldcup - wereldbeker cyclocross for elite men, veldrijden in Dendermonde, Belgium - photoNV/PN/Cor Vos © 2021

Mathieu van der Poel ends cyclocross season

No more cyclocross races for Mathieu van der Poel this season due to lingering back injury.

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Mathieu van der Poel has called an early end to his cyclocross season, which means the current world champion will not get the chance to defend his rainbow jersey in Fayetteville. Van der Poel has been struggling with back issues since making the switch from road to mountain in preparation for the Toyko Olympic Games. A heavy crash in Tokyo exacerbated the already lingering issue.

Despite the problems, Van der Poel managed to race five road races after the Games, including the Antwerp Port Epic that he won. He closed out his road season by finishing eighth at the World Championships and third at Paris-Roubaix.

“We want to optimize the healing process and that is not possible if there is time pressure for a possible participation in the World Championships in Fayetteville,” said team manager Christoph Roodhooft in a statement on Wednesday. “Hence the decision to end his cyclo-cross campaign. Medically there is no news to report. Mathieu respects the prescribed rest, and the injury is monitored by the medical staff and the treating specialist.”

The Dutchman returned to cyclocross on the 26th of December in Dendermonde and finished second behind Wout van Aert but the next day he crashed out of the race in Heusden-Zolder. Doctors have diagnosed a swelling at the vertebra in his back, an injury that takes a lot of rest to heal from. Van der Poel’s brother and his father Adrie also suffered from back injuries during their careers. Adrie van der Poel indicated to Sporza on Tuesday at the Hexia Cross in Gullegem that he thinks his son will be out for months.

“Speculations about whether it will take weeks or months are groundless,” Roodhooft said. “It is currently impossible to predict how fast the swelling will disappear. The treating doctors agree that it will effectively disappear with rest. That’s the most important thing, both for Mathieu and for the team. He will only start his road season when the injury is over, and when he’s been able to prepare for it properly. At this moment it makes no sense to pinpoint a date on it. We will only do that if it does.”

For Van der Poel this is a frustrating time. In 2021 he aimed for world championship titles in all three disciplines: cyclocross, mountain biking and road. Missing out on the cyclocross World Championships for the first time in ten years is hard on the Dutchman but he accepts the situation.

“I can’t say much about it, it is what it is,” Van der Poel said. “Because of that back pain, I haven’t been able to reach my desired level since the Tour. I just want that to be in the past. The only remedy turns out to be a longer rest period. It would therefore be foolish to interrupt this period again and still try to make it to the World Championships. We all agree on that.”

“Even though it is very bitter – I have participated in the World CX Championships 10 consecutive times – not being able to defend my title in the States is a real downer. I’m not worried about the future of my career, but of course, it frustrates me now not knowing how long this rest period will last. We’ll only set a date and goals if we can do so in a substantiated manner. Until then, I’ll do what I can.”

As for Van der Poel’s competitors, Tom Pidcock will be present in Fayetteville. Whether Wout van Aert travels to the United States to fight for his fourth rainbow stripes is still an unknown. The Belgian rider will decide after the upcoming national championships this weekend. Because of the travel and time difference, his team prefers Van Aert to stay at home to prepare for the upcoming road season but the definitive decision has not yet been made.

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