Mathieu Van der Poel Says He May Leave the Tour de France Early to Focus on the Olympics

May 13, 2021
by James Smurthwaite  
Mathieu Van Der Poel s return to World Cups will be a challenge after two years away.

Mathieu Van der Poel has said that there's a possibility he may leave the Tour de France early to focus on the Olympics this year.

Van der Poel's Alpecin Fenix team has been granted entry to the Tour de France for the first time in 2021 and, as their star rider, it has been part of the Dutch rider's packed schedule all year. It was previously believed he would race the entirety of the Tour before attempting a quick turnaround of just 12 days to recover, travel and acclimatize in Tokyo however, in a Zoom press conference ahead of the Nove Mesto World Cup this weekend, Van der Poel now says he may leave the Tour early to focus on his Olympic ambitions.

While skipping the tour entirely is not an option, the punchier hills of the first week of the route will favour Van der Poel's style better than the higher mountains that come later in the race's schedule. Van der Poel is one of the favourites to take the leader's Yellow Jersey in the first week but would be unlikely to carry it through until the final stage on the Champs Elysees in Paris as he would struggle against the climbing and time trial specialists. Because of this, it's feasible he could gather a lot of valuable publicity for his team early in the race and then leave later on to ensure he gets sufficient rest before the Olympics.

Wielerflits reports that Van der Poel said, "During the Tour I will keep the Games in mind. I don't know yet if, and when, I will leave the Tour. I will determine that together with the team in the course of the match. I would have preferred to do the Olympics last year and the Tour this year but it's not something I can choose this year, so we have to deal with it and try to be as best prepared as we can.”

Mathieu Van Der Poel tried to bring the same intensity as Friday night s short track into today s main even but may have bitten off more than he can chew. He d manage a seventh place when it was all said and done.

Van der Poel is already one of the strong favourites for the Olympic mountain bike race but question marks remained over his ability to race at the Tour and the Games in such a short amount of time. Leaving the Tour early would give him more recovery time and probably narrow his odds on winning gold.

Van der Poel also explained in the press conference the difficulties in switching between the two disciplines in a short period of time. He said, “It’s always been a bit of an adaptation for me to switch to the mountain bike because of the different position, the steep climbs, you really have to push from the back as well, and I've had it for the past few years. I also need a couple of hard training sessions or races to get used to the position again.”

Whatever happens with Van der Poel's Olympic and Tour ambitions this year, we can expect to see him in mountain biking for a while longer as he has confirmed he will continue on fat tires until at least the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

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Member since Nov 14, 2018
1,770 articles

  • 127 3
 I decided to not even enter to have as much resting time as possible
  • 11 0
 I have this same approach. Also carb-loading for the event I ever have to run a marathon. Not sure if I ever will but when I do, I’ll be carb-ready
  • 39 5
 To be honest, I'm glad MvdP is a mountain biker at heart. He's attempting that shitshow that is the Tour because the financial aspect is too big to be ignored, though MTB takes the priority when it comes to representing his country.
  • 28 0
  • 9 0
 Apparently he grew up mountain biking, so it's super cool to see him coming back to the sport.
  • 5 0
 He'd prefer not to be going to the Tour, but understands the sponsors want him there; having probably the most exciting cyclist around - plus being Poulidor's grandson.

I hope doing the Tour doesn't cost him a medal; plus, only 2 XCO races isn't great prep for the Olympic race.
  • 30 1
 In the original interview (HLN), he said that he expects The Grim Donut to be in production by 2025, when he plans to use it to compete in the Enduro World Series, DH World Cups and Red Bull Rampage. True story!
  • 1 0
 what about xc races or slopestyle, I think it would excel at thoes.
  • 17 0
 As someone who's as much of a roadie as a mountain biker (please be nice to me) and a bit obsessed with the Tour and its lore, this makes me super happy. I spend several hours a day every July (except 2020) watching every stage of the Tour, but there's something about elite XC racing that just really gets my blood pumping.
  • 9 0
 Love it or hate it, the scale and exposure of the Tour is just too big to pass up.

"The number of hours viewed in the opening nine stages (of the 2020 Tour) across 13 markets was claimed to have risen to 174 million, compared to 157 million in 2019"

That's a lot of people watching guys covered in sponsors. If MDVP wins a stage or gets in yellow even for a few days it's huge for the sponsors.

Also, for the Olympics they're in national jerseys so the people who pay his wages (well some of them) will get no exposure.
  • 1 0
 I'm not disagreeing with the exposure benefits for sponsors at the Tour. But I feel like the sponsor benefits for an Olympic gold are downplayed? Sure, you will wear your country's kit during the race. But you'll have an enormous opportunity to show logos during all of the press showings you'd get during the weeks and months afterward.
  • 2 1
 But if he medals in the Olympics then his sponsors have a World Tour rider and Olympic mountain biker as their athlete. If he can do well in both it would be quite the payday for him in future contract negotiations and possibly bring mountain bikers to try the road side of things (win for his sponsors). Especially if all they know about road cycling is VdP and the Tour de France.
  • 4 0
 @Willemhc: If he were American, where the levels of patriottism explode (Dick Pound) during the Olympics, then yes. However, in Europe / Netherlands, cyclists earn their dough in the TdF.
  • 3 0
 @mi-bike: I believe he's said that one of the primary reasons he's fired up about Olympics is because of how much the Dutch love the Olympics. I think it's its a big deal to be an Olympic medalist in the Netherlands as well.
  • 1 0
 @Willemhc: I'm sure the fans that are buying bikes will still know exactly what equipment he's using regardless of the jersey...
  • 8 1
 Think I’ll just skip the whole thing to prepare
  • 3 0
 MVP: Drops out of tour to prep for the Olympics.

Next Day: "Tokyo Announcing Cancellation of Olympic Games"
  • 2 0
 Came here for this. Did not read article. Smile
  • 4 2
 This just proves that mountain biking is better than road riding.
  • 3 10
flag dr-airtime (May 13, 2021 at 10:24) (Below Threshold)
 All male bikers at least should aspire to the bike bodies that Nino, MVDP, and Avacini have. Dudes are ripped from arms to core to legs. This is how you set yourself up to ride a bike for life.

Skinny, weight loss drug taking roadie arms? No thanks.
  • 6 2
 @dr-airtime: Pretty lame to bodyshame.
  • 3 4
 @mi-bike: Fair enough. Don't think the Sky anorexic triamcinolone TUE-fueled, salbutamol-enhanced body look should be aspired to by most that is is not natural
  • 2 1
 @dr-airtime: MVDP is a road rider
  • 1 3
 @mi-bike: lame and shame rhyme
  • 1 1
 @jmtbf: A rippped road rider! (I know)
  • 3 2
 MvdP is a CX rider at heart, with road aspirations. He's only on a mountain bike to win the Olympics.
  • 1 0
 Disagree. Corrected: MvdP is a mtber at heart, with aspirations to take record number of CX world titles. He's only on a road bike to win monuments.
  • 2 0
 He says he finds road boring - and the MTB is the biggest challenge, and most fun.
  • 1 0
 @Willemhc: I guess that why he raced mountain so much the past two years!
  • 1 0
 JJF did same for surfing after suffering knee tweak recently. All gunning for Japan.
  • 5 0
 JJF has announced his early departure from TdF this year? Bold move.
  • 1 0
 @mi-bike: what's tdf... tour de florence?
  • 1 0
 tbf a few riders mention leaving tdf early for Olympics
  • 1 0
 Dramatiese nuus!
  • 5 0
  • 1 0
 @mi-bike: lag ek nou lekker!
  • 1 2
 I did not realize he was their "star rider." Is he an actual GC consideration? I didn't think he was.
  • 2 0
 Sounds like they mean he's only a star contender for a yellow jersey on the first third or so of stages, not for the overall
  • 2 0
 nah I doubt he would be a GC guy, he could deffo grab the odd stage win though.
  • 4 0
 A lot of teams ultimately ride for guys not in contention for GC. E.g. Sagan would be Bora's star rider and they help him towards stage wins and sprint points. On that note, no, I think there is probability of 0 that VDP can make it over the biggest climbs with the climby GC boys. In fact I kind of don't see stages that suit him very well after the first rest day and by the time they have an ITT and two mtn stages going into that rest day I don't see how he will be carrying yellow. Seems unnecessary for him to stay after that day unless he suddenly decides he wants to contest for the green jersey.
  • 3 0
 Only a couple of teams have riders with legitimate aspirations of winning the tour. For most teams winning a single stage would be considered a great success. For many teams just getting riders into a breakaway early in the stage (with no great expectation of the group not getting caught by the peloton) simply to maximise TV exposure for their sponsors is the main goal.
  • 6 0
 Alpecin Fenix don’t have a GC rider. They’re going for stages. They won the first sprint at the Giro. Last year, Team Sunweb had great success stage hunting, and I’m assuming that AP is hoping for the same.
  • 3 0
 That's why he'll likely leave early, try and get some stage wins in the first week an then abandon, not super uncommon for sprinters or non-GC guys to head out after a week
  • 2 3
 Nah. He's become ripped in past 5 years. So much solid muscle. Too heavy to complete for GC once they hit the alps. The climbers that take funny grey area drugs to drop weight and won't even pick up their kids because they don't want to put arm muscle on (Tom Dumoulin). Would hate to see MVDP skinny.

MVDP is exciting because he is so strong and lights up one day races, CX and XCO. This is where the real excitement is. TDF, not so much. Too much chemical optimization and strategy, less pure bike racing.

If first week is all sprints he could keep the Yellow Jersey for first week like Alaphillipe the last couple tours.
  • 1 1
  • 17 20
 only thing interesting about tour de france are dudes roadgapping over them
  • 5 8
He thinks the Olympics is actually going to happen?!
What is he on?
  • 2 2
 Can't believe they are on honestly. 1% of Japan vaccinated. Japan gets a ton of debt and thousands of extra deaths from hosting games....
  • 1 0
 @dr-airtime: Best guess is it's 50/50 whether or not it happens...
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