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Van der Poel - man for all seasons and surfaces

By AFP

March 31, 2024 09:44 PM


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Mathieu van der Poel won the Tour of Flanders for a third time on Sunday adding to his burgeoning reputation as one of the all time greats of one-day road cycling.

Considered the greatest of the ultra-long one-day 'monument' races the 29-year-old Dutchman also won the iconic race over the cobbled lanes and hills of Flanders in 2020 and 2022.

Champion at two of the five monuments in 2023 with victories at Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo, Van der Poel also won the Glasgow world championships road race last season.

He also stars on the winter mud of cyclo-cross, winning a sixth world championship in February.

On his first Tour de France, he settled a blood debt for his famous grandfather, French rider Raymond Poulidor, who never wore the leader's yellow jersey despite eight final podium finishes.

On stage two on his Tour debut in 2021, Van der Poel attacked repeatedly and escaped for good with a finishing rampage over the Mur de Bretagne to win the stage and take the overall leaders jersey, an honour his revered grandfather missed out on so many times by a whisker.

Against the odds, Van der Poel defended the Tour de France lead for six swashbuckling days.

His riding attracted a new generation of fans to the Tour de France, even though some felt his style too aggressive and detractors said his all-in style was distorting the usual strategy of the 21-day marathon.

Having originally said he would quit the Tour once he had lost the jersey, he instead completed it.

His fortunes took a nosedive in the mountain bike competition at the Tokyo Olympics. He crashed on the first lap unaware that a ramp of rock, in place during practice, had been removed on the big day.

The subsequent back injury dogged his one-day campaign in 2022, but Van der Poel did win the opening stage of the Giro d'Italia, picking up his first-day Giro pink jersey.

Controversy struck in Australia when he was arrested overnight before the world championships at Wollongong in 2022 after chasing two teenage girls who had repeatedly woken him by knocking on his hotel door in a prank gone wrong.

He showed up at the start of the race after a sleepless night in a cell, but pulled out after an hour, leaving Australia under a cloud a few days later.

He won the world title in 2023 in Glasgow and dominated the one-day classics season before getting into hot water on the cyclo-cross circuit for spitting on an abusive fan.


AFP


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