The father of Mathieu van der Poel has suggested that his son struggled in the snow at the Val di Sole cyclocross race on Saturday because he was scared of crashing and keen to avoid injury so close to the packed holiday season of racing.
However he was hesitant on the snow and ice, struggling from the very start of the race, losing ground on every lap and finishing eighth at 3:14. Michael Vanthourenthout won the race, using his bike skills to go clear alone, while Eli Iserbyt crashed hard, just as Fem Van Empel did in the women’s race.
Van der Poel was not happy when he finished and refused to speak post-race, leaving it to his father, Adrie, a former pro and cyclocross World Champion, to explain to the media why he was so far off the pace.
“I think Mathieu was scared,” Adrie van der Poel suggested to Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab), using the Dutch synonym “he was riding with a gigantic egg in his pants” to describe his son’s performance.”
“It was simple, he didn’t have the confidence on the snow and ice. It showed at the start and during the race. Michael Vanthourenhout rode with confidence, Mathieu didn’t. You saw that at every corner.”
Van der Poel insisted that his son is on form after his block of road training in Spain, dismissing fears about the busy schedule of racing coming up over the holidays and the 2023 season. Last year Van der Poel hardly raced due to a back problem which also impacted his early-season road racing.
“His form is certainly not the issue. If you look at his heart rate for the last five laps, I don’t think he went above 125. He was never in the game. Every now and then he saw someone lying on the ground that had hit a post. That makes you think, doesn’t it?” Adrie van der Poel claimed.
“We can’t forget that he raced [cyclocross] properly for two years. This performance is really the last thing I’m worried about. Next week is another race on a different course.”
The Alpecin-Deceuninck team management had apparently urged Van der Poel not to take any risks on the snow and ice, knowing that a crash like those of Van Empel or Iserbyt could compromise his cyclocross and road racing season.
“We had said in advance not to take too many risks,” Het Nieuwsblad quoted the team management as saying….