If Wout van Aert is currently flying in the plowed fields with a fifth victory in five contested races, this is not the case with his eternal rival Mathieu van der Poel. Due to his health problems, including back pain, the world champion had to postpone his start to the season for a week, canceling his presence in Rucphen. Finally at the start in Dendermonde last Sunday, the Dutchman did well with a good second place behind the inaccessible Belgian champion.
But this Monday, at Heusden-Zolder, Van der Poel was never in the game to finally give up three laps to go. His last abandonment in the plows dates back to October 13, 2018 in Lokeren. At the time, the Dutchman had to leave the race on a stretcher after a heavy fall.
This time, it’s his back that worries and prevents him from developing his usual power: “Giving up is not part of Mathieu’s dictionary but he has to think about his health. It didn’t make much sense to continue. But after two days off I’m sure it will get better.“, confided his father, Adrie at the microphone of Sporza, refusing to give in to panic at one month of the world championship, “He needs time. It’s no surprise that he has suffered a back pain after the difficult race in Dendermonde and the first two laps in Heusden-Zolder.”
“It’s not very pleasant, for him as for us”, added his boss Christoph Roodhooft at the microphone of Play Sports, “We have to be mindful of his back pain. It’s annoying because it’s the kind of problem you don’t get rid of with a wave of a magic wand.” But, if the back pain of Van der Poel is not recent, in his entourage, it was thought that the Dutchman had got rid of it: “In the second lap, I said to myself several times: ‘there, Mathieu will accelerate but nothing has ever come'”, continued Roodhooft who specified that his colt will be at the start of the Loenhout cyclo-cross this Thursday.
An evil that has dragged on since the summer
The event contested in the small village of the municipality of Wuustwezel in the province of Antwerp will be a real test for the world champion according to his father. If Van der Poel finds good feelings, the stormy episode of Heusden-Zolder will be behind him: “Last year in Dendermonde he also let Van Aert go. Three years ago he was nowhere on the Koppenberg cyclo-cross before becoming European champion three days later. on the back, these are things that can happen. “
Back pain that is not new, however, and which has been added to knee problems since his fall at the Olympics: “Since the Tour de France, he has not been able to compete in a good race”, explained Adrie Van der Poel, “in Paris-Roubaix (Editor’s note, where he took 3rd place) it was still going but it was not great Mathieu either. His preparation for the cyclo-cross season was disrupted and he therefore accumulated a month behind the initial diagram. “
Faced with a Van Aert in great shape, the Olympic champion will therefore no doubt have to revise his ambitions down this season in the plowed fields: “It’s not a problem. Certainly when you know where he comes from. Above all, he must not force. If he is in pain, he must remain cautious. Maybe he must be satisfied with 5th place. from time to time. The world championship remains the main focus but there are more serious things in life if he doesn’t manage to play for victory. “
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After his retirement from Heusden-Zolder, concern grew around Van der Poel: “Perhaps he should be content with a 5th place”