Why Mathieu van der Poel May Be Cutting His Road Season Short

63rd grand prix de wallonie 2023
Mathieu van der Poel Is Cutting His Road SeasonLuc Claessen - Getty Images

Mathieu van der Poel may end his road season earlier than planned this year. After crossing the finish line of the Grand Prix De Wallonie road race yesterday in Namur, Belgium—home of one of the most iconic cyclocross races in the world—he told reporters that he was ready for a break.

The current road World Champion finished fourth at Wallonie, but told Het Nieuwsblad that “cycling around for the sake of cycling is not of much use.” Truer words.

Of course, most cyclists would be thrilled to be on the wide angle podium of an iconic race like the Grand Prix De Wallonie, but considering Van der Poel is pretty used to topping the podium in Namur (he's won that cyclocross race several times over the years), it probably didn’t feel like a major victory.

He added that physically and mentally, he’s not feeling as though he’s in top shape, and considering he’s aiming for both a cyclocross race season and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, he can’t afford to waste energy or focus.

This year alone, the Alpecin-Deceuninck racer scored World Championship titles in cyclocross and on the road, and according to CyclingNews, racked up a whopping 45 race days on the road alone. He even made a bid for MTB World Championships, but an early crash in a loose corner ended his race before the first lap was finished.

Still, hitting three disciplines in one season is fairly normal for van der Poel, who’s been seen as a triple threat in cyclocross, road and MTB since he was a junior racer. But maybe at 28 years old, he’s finally starting to feel the fatigue that comes from so much racing. And as he tackles longer and longer road events and is more and more often the front-runner in the big one-day races, it makes sense that the effort to stay at the front of the pack would leave him tired after nine months of racing.

If van der Poel takes a break now, this is good news for cyclocross fans who are waiting with bated breath to see if Wout Van Aert, Tom Pidcock and van der Poel will be on the cyclocross start line together at all this coming season. With all three of them racing heavily in other disciplines, it’s understandable that their cyclocross seasons are abbreviated, but cyclocross fans know just how much fun it is to watch those three at the front of a race. So, here’s hoping that a few less road races for van der Poel mean a few extra cyclocross starts!

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