Mûr-de-Bretagne (France) (AFP)
After two days on his first Tour de France, Mathieu van der Poel added a stage victory and the famous leader’s yellow jersey to an impressive collection of triumphs in mountain biking and in the one-day classics.
AFP Sport takes a look at three things to know about a rising star.
– Mathieu who? –
Van der Poel’s father is Dutch, his mother is French and he was born in Belgium.
He inherited the cycling genes from both parents.
His mother is the daughter of Raymond Poulidor, one of the most beloved French cyclists.
Papa Adrie has won cyclocross and mountain biking titles as well as Tour de France stages and one-day road classics.
Like his father, Mathieu first made a name for himself in cyclo-cross. He is aiming for a gold medal in mountain biking at the Tokyo Olympics.
Mathieu followed his older brother David in the teams led by Philip Roodhooft who leads the Belgian team Alpecin-Fenix.
“When I was 18, I was spotted by Philip Roodhooft”, recently told AFP David, who is 29 years old against 26 for Mathieu. “They offered to ride for them as a prospect. Mathieu joined me two years later.”
Young van der Poel racked up a string of junior cyclo-cross and road racing titles, but became a star in the Netherlands after his first major road victory, the Dutch Amstel Gold Race in 2019.
– Tireless striker –
Van der Poel doesn’t have the raw finishing speed of the top sprinters but, tall for a road cyclist, he has immense power and can build long distance wins, attacking well away from the finish line.
On Sunday, he launched his strike on the first of two late climbs of the short but brutal Mur-de-Bretagne.
His panache and aggressiveness attract fans but the tactic is risky.
At the 2019 World Championships in Yorkshire, he started out early in the rain but broke down and finished almost 11 minutes behind winner Dane Mads Pedersen.
“Sometimes I attack too early”, conceded van der Poel in an interview with Velo Magazine in March 2020.
– Tempted by Paris-Roubaix –
Poulidor, always a Tour de France contender but never quite a winner, was nicknamed “the eternal runner-up”.
On Sunday, van der Poel filled a hole in the family CV by donning the yellow jersey his grandfather never wore in a race.
He mentioned another goal: Paris-Roubaix, the only one of the five one-day cycling “monuments” run in France.
Poulidor has won other classics, but even though he has raced Hell of the North 18 times, he has never finished better than fifth.
In addition to the Amstel Gold, van der Poel won the Tour of Flanders, one of the two monuments to be visited in Belgium. He has not yet driven on Paris-Roubaix.
“Paris-Roubaix is one of the best races of the year, I rarely missed it on TV,” said van der Poel, adding that the prospect of riding the famous cobblestone road made slippery by the rain attracted him.
“It makes the race even more heroic and skill on the bike becomes a deciding factor.”
© 2021 AFP