As the start of this Tour in Denmark approaches, a question is going around in your head: will Mathieu van der Poel offer the same fireworks as last year in Brittany? After a victory at Mûr de Bretagne, he took the yellow jersey from Julian Alaphilippe to keep it for six days, thanks, among other things, to a well-controlled time trial in Laval (5th at 38” from Pogacar) which had allowed him to prolong the pleasure.
” This year, he explained this Thursday morning at a press conference, it is much more difficult to take the yellow jersey. The first steps suit me much less. » The festivities actually open on the time trial, Friday in the streets of Copenhagen, over 13.2 km. A distance that is not conducive to big gaps in the general standings, and Van der Poel suggests that he has prepared it without displayed ambition. Not out of negligence but because discipline, if he says he loves her, “It has become Formula 1. To be among the ten best in this time trial, you almost have to prepare for it for a year. »
And there are, for the moment, no slots available in the tight agenda of this hunter of Flandriennes, Monuments, cyclocross or Olympic mountain bike medals. “I know I have the power to do well in a time trial but raw power is not at stake, there are a lot of gains to be made elsewhere. » At most Van der Poel conceded Thursday some modifications in the extensions and his position on the bike.
“I haven’t even unpacked my new wetsuit,” he said smiling, referring to the outfit designed especially for him (estimated at around 3,000 euros) by the Alpecin textile supplier, Kalas, and the British firm Vorteq based precisely on the Silverstone F1 circuit and featuring technologies technology and a wind tunnel to design this equipment.
He also studied the Copenhagen route which, “with many corners, gives me a few chances compared to the specialists. In this it is a bit like that of the Giro (in Verona, 3rd at 40” from Sobrero). This will allow me to limit the damage. »
“I prefer to embark on big breakaways than to spend the whole day in the peloton. »
This strategic dilettantism masks a real care in his team to leave nothing to chance in this exercise (we remember the colossal material efforts before the Laval time trial last year), Van der Poel having nevertheless finished 8 times in the Top 10 of the 13 time trials and prologues contested in his career.
He wants to join the Champs-Élysées
Once the first week has been digested, Van der Poel announces the menu in broad strokes, after repeating that he will not be fighting for the green jersey: “I’ll be on the train to help Jasper (Philipson) in sprints. » And for the offensive fireworks, we have been warned: “I prefer to embark on big breakaways than to spend the whole day in the peloton. »
The grandson of Raymond Poulidor already has an eye in France, on the cobblestones, for once right in his register. “It’s really in “the Roubaix stage” (Lille-Arenberg, July 6) that something can happen. »
He also confirmed his intention to ride to the Champs-Élysées, after leaving the Tour last year on the morning of the 6th stage, in Cluses. Given his form in the third week of the Tour of Italy, in May, his first big tour run in full, he seems reassured. “The only unknown was my ability to hold on in the third week. We’ll see how the body recovered after the Giro. »