The triple cyclocross World Champion led the way as the second-tier ProTeam prepared for the cobbled Monument that has been rescheduled from April to Sunday 25th October.
Van der Poel had originally planned his 2020 season around the Tokyo Olympics and competing for gold in the cross-country mountain biking event.
However, due to the Games being postponed until 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the possibility of a last-minute Tour de France invite being ruled out, Van der Poel redirected his focus to racing the Monuments.
Alpecin-Fenix has been granted invites to Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, allowing the 25-year-old the opportunity to compete at all of the Monuments except Il Lombardia.
Van der Poel, alongside 15 of his teammates, previewed the final 100km of Paris-Roubaix on Monday with the team set to ride the Tour of Flanders course on Tuesday and Gent-Wevelgem route on Wednesday as part of their ‘coronavirus-proof’ training camp.
With the likes of highly-rated mountain biker Sam Gaze, British rider Alex Richardson and Belgian National Champion Tim Merlier, Van der Poel’s Strava file shows that he took the recon at a fair tempo, showing us his capabilities when he needed to.
For example, he took the five-star pave secteur of the Arenberg Forrest at a practically sedate 32.3kmh, which gave him a segment time 40 seconds slower than the likes of Daniel Oss and recent race winner Philippe Gilbert, who managed average speeds of 38kmh at the last few editions of the race.
However, Van der Poel showed his prowess on the 1.18km-long Pavé Bourghelles à Wannehain secteur where he set a new Strava KoM in a time of 1 minute 40 seconds, 2 seconds faster than the previous time set by Deceuninck-QuickStep‘s Iljo Keisse. It was a sprint that saw Van der Poel tap out 491W, an effort similar to those he undertakes at many a cyclocross race.
And while Van der Poel’s reconnaissance ride hardly set the world alight with incredible stats, it did show us that cycling racing really is not that far away, riders are starting to get in peak shape to take on what will be a furiously intense season and that the most highly-rated cyclist in the world will be making his debut at the first Paris-Roubaix to ever take place in late autumn.