Who will be able to get in the way of Mathieu van der Poel at the Cyclo-Cross World Championships on Sunday? Probably no one is the only correct answer. Because we don’t immediately see this Van der Poel making serious mistakes.
Because the Dutchman is in great shape, of course, but also because Van der Poel has clicked mentally in terms of building up his record. The focus is – much more than a few years ago – on winning the competitions and not so much on entertaining the audience. So he says himself in Knack.
“I have realized that time is running out. The chances of winning a major race are quite slim. And I also listened to my dad. In the past, I sometimes attacked 100 kilometers from the finish. It’s not that I didn’t know how to win a race.”
“But I just thought it would be fun to try it in a different way. ‘It’s all very well, Matje,’ my dad would say, ‘but that’s not how you build up a record’,” Van der Poel says there.
Back problems as a reason
The biggest reason for this ‘click’ came at the Olympic Games. Van der Poel had a serious crash there during the mountain bike ride. And that fall also had major consequences afterwards.
“After my fall at the Olympic Games, I had problems with my back for a long time. That injury has often hindered me during competitions. This has made me realize more than ever: every year that passes brings with it opportunities that will never return.”
Are the times of ‘play bird’ over? “I’m still a game bird – and I hope I always will be one. Especially during training. But it is different in the race: you can no longer afford any nonsense, because the level is now so much higher,” concludes Van der Poel.