Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) – who just raced his first 2022 event and finished third – will continue his classics campaign at Dwars door Vlaanderen on March 30th as he builds towards the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
Van der Poel will race the 183.7-kilometer Belgian mid-week classic as part of his hasty preparation for the season’s second and third monuments. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), and Thomas Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) are expected to start as well.
The race leaves only four days until the Tour of Flanders, April 3. After a spectacular crash in 2019, Van der Poel returned to win the Ronde in 2020. Last year, in a two-up sprint with Kasper Asgreen (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl), he placed second.
A Monumental Comeback
It’s a remarkable return for the 27-year-old Dutchman who had been suffering from back and knee problems since his crash in the mountain event at the Tokyo Olympic Games. His last race on the road was October 3, when he placed third at Paris-Roubaix behind winner Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious). Over the winter he raced two cyclocross events before pulling the plug.
Despite his lack of racing, Van der Poel showed that he is back on track on Saturday in Milano-Sanremo. After nearly 300 kilometers, he remained in the fight and placed third behind winner Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious). It was a huge result that few could pull off after a winter derailed by injury.
Tentatively On Track
Van der Poel’s Alpecin-Fenix team explained to FloBikes that following his Milano-Sanremo success, the Dutchman would race the Coppi e Bartali stage race this week.
“If all goes well” he will race Dwars door Vlaanderen, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Alpecin-Fenix added that “of course we’ll keep monitoring his situation – we can’t predict how he’ll react on his racing in the next days.”
Van der Poel also said in interviews recently that he would race the Amstel Gold Race, which this year falls on the Sunday between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
Winning Form Returns Quickly For Some
“The past month weren’t like my favorite ones for sure,” he explained in a team press release of his road back to racing.
“I didn’t really expect to get to the classics, because the progress was really slow, but then it started to go well. And then the last two weeks, I made some really good steps which I and the team didn’t really expect.”
Over the winter, he had surgery on his knee. With training and therapy, he said his back has returned to 90% now. He “is curious” how his back will hold up over consecutive days of racing.
“I’m back better than than the level I had at last year’s World Championships in Leuven. I wouldn’t go to the classics races if I didn’t think I could go for the win.”