Mathieu van der Poel went on the attack early on stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico but ultimately failed to make an impact in the race. The Dutchman insists, however, he is not concerned about his form for the rapidly approaching Spring Classics.
Milan-San Remo is a week away, Gent-Wevelgem opens the cobbled Classics on March 26 and the Tour of Flanders is only three weeks away. Despite the races’ proximity, Van der Poel refused to start worrying about his apparent lack of form and results compared to key Classics rivals like Tadej Pogačar, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock.
“I expected to be a little better, but I’m not panicking yet,” the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider told Sporza before stage 6 on the steep ‘muri’ climbs around Osimo.
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Van der Poel returned to road racing in Italy after dominating the winter cyclocross season and taking the world title on February 5. He enjoyed a week off and then trained for two weeks in Spain at the Syncrosfera altitude-simulating hotel but surprisingly struggled on his season debut at Strade Bianche.
He played a team role in the early sprint stages at Tirreno-Adriatico, giving Jasper Philipsen a text-book leadout in Foligno. However, he was distanced before the final short climb to the line in Tortoreto on stage 4, when he had been expected to fight for victory.
“I can honestly say that my legs have been a bit disappointing so far,” Van der Poel explained before stage 6 on Saturday.
“I was able to help my teammates a few times but I expected to be a little better. But I do think this race will make me stronger for the races to come. I need this race to get to my top form.
“I think it’s important to remember that my build-up to the road season was very short. I only trained for two weeks after a week of resting following the cyclocross world championships.”
Van der Poel won the ‘muri’ stage of Tirreno-Adriatico in 2021 from a 65 km breakaway. This year he was dropped with 40 km to go on the steepest climb of the Osimo finishing circuit when his Classics rivals Wout van Aert lifted the pace and finished 14 minutes behind stage winner Primož Roglič.
“I’m not at the level I was in 2021 when I won,” he said. “But I’m certainly not panicking yet.”
After the stage, Van der Poel did not comment on his performance. After rolling in with teammate Gianni Vermeersch, he took a drink and headed straight to his team, preferring to avoid still more questions about his form.