Mathieu van der Poel‘s winter campaign has drawn to a close after winning a sixth cyclocross world title in Tabor on Sunday, and now the Dutchman is turning his attention to the 2024 road season, where he may not start until mid-March.
Van der Poel is taking a week’s holiday after the dominant defence of his rainbow jersey – his 161st elite ‘cross victory – and may only be back in action to defend his Milan-San Remo title on March 16.
The Volta ao Algarve (February 14-18) had previously been mooted as his starting point for the new season, racing alongside the likes of Remco Evenepoel, Wout van Aert, and Tom Pidcock.
However, that plan, leading into Tirreno-Adriatico (March 4-10), Milan-San Remo and then the cobbled Classics later in April – culminating in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix – has now seemingly been put to one side.
Instead, as Het Nieuwsblad reports, the world champion and his Alpecin-Deceuninck team are still deciding on where he’ll start his season, though Italy looks almost assured to host his 2024 bow.
The Belgian squad are set to announce the exact location before the end of February, with Strade Bianche (March 2) also in contention alongside the two other Italian WorldTour events. However, Het Nieuwsblad reports that the most likely starting point is at San Remo, where he soloed to a third career Monument victory last year.
The Italian race is set to be one of his main goals of the spring as he seeks to add to his lengthy palmarès while wearing the rainbow stripes. The Tour of Flanders (March 31), which he won in 2020 and 2022, and Paris-Roubaix (April 7), where he triumphed solo last year, are again certain goals for his spring campaign.
Another Monument in the form of Liège-Bastogne-Liège could also feature on his spring schedule. He finished sixth at his only participation back in 2020. The remainder of his first half of 2024 has yet to be confirmed, though.
“My ambitions in the Classics won’t change,” he said just before the new year. “After that, I’ll see how my form is and if it’s good, there’s a chance I could ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”
Van der Poel’s summer is also up in the air, with the only real certainty being a tilt at the road race at the Paris Olympic Games on August 3, 13 days after the end of the Tour de France.
Whether he makes a return to the Tour seems to depend on whether he’ll be taking on the cross-country mountain bike event in Paris, too. The race will take place on July 29, only eight days…