Mathieu van der Poel was bored in his hotel room, so decided to go to a bike race

The Dutchman also revealed he will only ride one Grand Tour next year, the Tour de France.

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Mathieu van der Poel is in Italy. He arrived for the UCI Gravel World Championships and then has a five-day wait for the Serenissima Gravel, another off-road adventure for the Dutchman before a pre-cyclocross break.

But for those intervening five days, despite being in the idyllic setting of Veneto, there isn’t much to do apart from sit in his hotel, presumably ordering pineapple pizza to his room given his proximity to the off-season.

Therefore, he lined up for the Giro del Veneto, a semi-Classic held in the same area as the weekend’s UCI Gravel Worlds, all of the aforementioned races organised by retired pro Filippo Pozzato’s company, Pozzato himself winning this race in 2009.

In Padua’s Prato della Valle, an elliptical square (yep, that’s apparently a real thing according to Wikipedia) containing ornate bridges over a manmade canal and containing two rings of statues, Mathieu van der Poel stepped off his team bus for one of the final times this season.

Coffee in hand, he walked over to his bike, attached his bike computer and then looked up at the assembled media, as if to say, politely, ‘come on then let’s get this done with as quickly and painlessly as possible’.

“Mathieu, are you here today because the legs were feeling good or because you’re here until Friday?”

“Especially the second part,” Van der Poel said, a late inclusion to the start line that also housed a number of teams who had signed up in anticipation of a more closely fought relegation scrap. “I was here for the week anyway. It’s difficult to stay training so I preferred to do a race to keep busy, otherwise, I’m staying in the hotel all day. So I just said I’d do the race.”

That’s not to take anything away from the race, held on beautiful autumnal roads of northeastern Italy, finishing in the city of Vicenza, passing by the stunning Monte Berico basilica just before the finish line, a chance for riders to say a quick prayer the final kilometre will see them be the first across the finish line.

For Mathieu van der Poel, however, it’s a continuation of what seems to be a never-ending schedule of competition between road racing and cyclocross, with a bit of mountain biking chucked in every now and again for good measure, and now some gravel too.

“I think this year the mental fatigue is a bit bigger than the physical one,” Van der Poel said, a sentiment echoed by Tadej Pogačar in an interview with CyclingTips where the Slovenian questioned the longevity of the current peloton’s top stars given the intensity of both racing and race schedules.

“There’s not really a lot left. The Gravel Worlds I wanted to do because it’s a bit special, but then these two races came extra. I will be happy if I can take a little break again after Friday.”

But after that break comes the cyclocross season, and when asked when that will begin, Van der Poel already seemed slightly pre-exhausted at the notion. “I’ll decide it after I’ve had a break, but I think it will be the end of November, somewhere there, but I’m not sure.”

One thing for certain is that Van der Poel will not combine the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2023, his escapades in Italy costing him in France where he failed to make a dent in the race he bent to his will a year prior.

“Not 100%, but for sure I will only do one Grand Tour next year,” Van der Poel considered. “I think this year was a bit exceptional as well because there was a chance to take the pink jersey in the Giro but otherwise I will do the same as I did in the years before, just 10-15 cyclocross races, then prepare myself for the Classics season, then take some rest and go for the Tour.”

At the Giro del Veneto, Van der Poel abandoned mid-race, having seen enough and other members of the Alpecin-Deceuninck team getting in the action up front. UAE Team Emirates’ Matteo Trentin eventually emerged victorious, sprinting from a small selection off the front.

In his post-race interview, conducted in an ornate 16th-century palace where a room roofed with oil paintings had been turned into a United Nations-esque summit, we asked if he could understand the motivations of Van der Poel.

“Matteo, Mathieu van der Poel said he lined up this morning partly to get out of his hotel room, have you ever started a race because you were bored?”

“No,” Trentin answered deadpan. “Never.”

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