Team Alpecin-Fenix announced today that Mathieu van der Poel's back pain will prevent him from racing World Championships at Val di Sole this week. He will instead focus on rehabilitation so that he can finish out his road season with the Paris Roubaix, the Benelux Tour, and other road races.
Original story below.
It feels like just the other day that Mathieu van der Poel seemed unstoppable, claiming the yellow jersey for six days at the Tour de France before leaving the Tour to race the Olympics. Now, the 26-year-old Dutch road, cyclocross, and cross country star had to cut short an altitude training camp due to back pain that has increasingly plagued him since the Albstadt World Cup and has put the rest of his race season in jeopardy.
Van der Poel is scheduled to race the cross country World Championships next week in Val di Sole before returning to road racing for the rest of the season, but Alpecin-Fenix team manager Christophe Roodhooft told Dutch news outlet Het Laatste Nieuws
that things will have to turn around before van der Poel can seriously train again: "He has problems with his lower back. Riding at ease is possible but of course that's not training," he said. "That's why we decided to stop the training camp."
Van der Poel's crash in the Olympics
isn't the root of the problem and his team says he has suffered from worsening back pain since the Albstadt World Cup, but landing on his back in the Olympics certainly didn't help and his condition has worsened since then. A painkiller injection to his back and adjustment of his cleat position so far haven't eased the pain.
Moreover, it seems the crash's effects weren't all physical. Dutch national mountain bike coach Gerben de Knegt said van der Poel wants to race World Champs partly for redemption after his Olympic bid didn't go as planned.
"Mathieu indicated that he would like to do it," the coach said. "I immediately felt that he thought he had something to put right," he continued, before explaining that van der Poel also needs the UCI points. Missing out could take away his eligibility for next year's short track races and would no doubt put a damper on his offseason.
The next couple of days will likely bring answers about the rest of his season. We wish him all the best in his recovery and hope to see him at the start line for Worlds next week.