All good superheroes arrive just in the nick of time, and that is what Mathieu van der Poel must look like to the organisers of Milan-San Remo. The Dutchman confirmed his presence on a start line on Friday amid the news that swathes of top talent will miss the event due to the illnesses currently rattling around the peloton.
Van der Poel says he didn’t expect to recover in time from the injury that saw him abandon his cyclocross season this winter but has since made progress beyond his and his team’s expectations.
“To abandon the CX-season was a tough decision to make but I think it was the right one and in the end I’ve had really proper time now to take care of the problem,” Van der Poel said of his recovery. “I didn’t really expect to get to the classics, because the progress was really slow, but then it started to go well. And then the last two weeks I made some really good steps which I and the team didn’t really expect”.
Milan-San Remo will be Van der Poel’s first road race of the season, not too unhappy to have missed the early season meets, “the past month weren’t like my favorite ones for sure”, but adds that his family and friends are happy to have him back on the bike instead of moping around at home. “I think they were also happy that I could start working out again,” said Van der Poel.
With the likes of defending champion Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Bahrain Victorious’ Sonny Colbrelli and world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step AlphaVinyl) all out of the race through illness, there are fewer contenders than can normally be expected. However, the presence of UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogačar and Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert mean the Dutchman’s expectations are measured.
“I hope I will be there at the starting line and try to get the best out of it,” he finished.