Never has a person on a bicycle achieved better results in the Tour of Flanders than Mathieu van der Poel

Never has a person on a bicycle achieved better results in the Tour of Flanders than Mathieu van der Poel
Never has a person on a bicycle achieved better results in the Tour of Flanders than Mathieu van der Poel

That picture. You can’t see the thick white line. He stands half a meter beyond it, no further, as if he can’t go any further, doesn’t want to go any further. That half meter is sufficient for the gladiator on two wheels. He raises his hands in the air, the gesture of victory, and in those hands he carries another seven kilos.

It is a white rainbow jersey, completely smeared from back to front, white teeth in a grim smile, white helmet, holding the seven-kilogram bicycle above its head. A Canyon. Not even the most expensive of that brand, that is the Ultimate CFR. This is the Aeroad type (as far as I can tell).

As a side note: you can get it for less than 10,000 euros, but with wheels from DT Swiss and not the Shimanos from Alpecin-Deceuninck. It is doubtful whether that machine will keep you straight on the Koppenberg.

That photo says it all. This is the primal cry, the primal gesture of the victor. The audience in the background is out of focus. You do not see the joy or admiration, and fortunately neither the hatred and envy of the narrow-minded Flemish who taunted him along the way and poured beer on him.

The gladiator has fought and is empty, as was evident from the last slightly ascending kilometer towards the finish line. The two-minute margin with which he briefly flirted along the way has been halved by the rising tide that was only fighting for the stage. Then again, this is arriving solo and is there anything more beautiful than driving to the finish alone on that shitty track – the Minderbroederstraat for the intimates?

Mathieu van der Poel finished fourth in his first participation in the Tour of Flanders after, through his own stupid fault, he tried to avoid a flower box at sixty kilometers from the end, unfortunately jumped into it, after which his wheel broke half and completely broke during a subsequent pit.

He flipped over, jumped back on a new bike and then passed the entire pack on the Kwaremont to finish fourth. He then finished first three times and second twice. Never has a person on a bicycle achieved better results in the Tour of Flanders. Mathieu van der Poel from the north of the country, but of Dutch identity, is now co-record holder in Flanders Most Beautiful. He is Flanders’ Best.

The absence of Wout van Aert? Well, well, no. Sorry, but absentees are wrong. Isn’t it time that we interpret events as they should be interpreted? We also did that to others when they turned themselves off for one reason or another. Like Van der Poel, who ruined his race at the Olympic Games in Tokyo (plankjegate) or the World Mountain Bike Championships in Glasgow (stupid slip). In the road race in Glasgow he had the luxury of a big lead when, through his own fault, he slid in a bend and fell, on the right and yet without damage to the derailleur.

Look, Wout van Aert is a great rider, a hell of an athlete, is one of the very best in his profession, he also has a good head, he has a good conversation, he also looks good and – as far as that goes is up – he behaves. There is nothing to argue about.

But Wout van Aert, who can steer a bicycle much better than the average rider, has now suffered a heavy fall for the second time in his career for which no one else is responsible except himself.

In the 2019 Tour he suffered a delay. A wrongly placed closer, yes, but he was the only one who stuck with it.

In the E3 Prize last week he wanted to get out of the gutter in an attempt to follow Van der Poel. He fell.

In Dwars door Vlaanderen he let his men ride in front so fast that the internal dynamics of the raging peloton were disrupted and he may have hit a wheel. He was the first to fall, taking a whole host of colleagues into his misery.

What if that had been a rider from Sport Vlaanderen? Or a foreigner who had ventured among the greats of Flanders. What was the reaction then?

Bad luck? No, bad luck is your derailleur blocking on a slope. Or a flat tire at a bad time, like Van Aert in Paris-Roubaix last year, although a puncture on cobblestones can have another cause. Or someone else falls for you and you fall over. Jasper Stuyven, he had bad luck in Dwars door Vlaanderen. The bad luck that his buddy Wout van Aert was not unlucky but lay down.

Bad luck, as the term is often incorrectly used, is similar to luck: two phenomena that can only manifest themselves if you have first created the conditions for it yourself.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: person bicycle achieved results Tour Flanders Mathieu van der Poel


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