THROWBACK THURSDAY: INSIDE THE PROS’ BIKES WITH MATHIEU VAN DER POEL
(From Mountain Bike Action, September 2020)
Meet The Riders And Their Rides
Mathieu van der Poel
[Editor’s note: Mathieu Van der Poel suffered a bad crash in the Tokyo Olympics mountain bike race in the summer of 2021. He resumed racing again before the end of 2021 and placed second at one of the biggest cyclocross races of the year. Then he hurt his back so badly again that he is skipping the World Championships in Arkansas in January as well as the rest of the cyclocross races this winter while he recovers. He’s expected to resume racing in the Spring Classics, according to Road Bike Action, but we’ll have to see what happens. His father and his brother have both been plagued with back problems in their cycling careers, too, according to our sources. We don’t know how Van der Poel will do in his racing in the years ahead, but we expect that he’ll a major factor in road racing this coming summer. Before his crash in the Olympics, van der Poel was reportedly having back problems in May of 2021, too.
There’s no way to know for sure what will happen in Van der Poel’s cycling career in the years ahead. At the time we wrote the following article, which appeared in our September 2020 issue, Van der Poel was widely thought to be well on his way to becoming one of the greatest cyclists in history.
At that time, he was still near the top of his game and was hoping to pick up an Olympic gold medal in mountain biking. The Tokyo Olympics were still a year away when we published this article in 2020. The Olympics had already been postponed until 2021 at that time, while the world changed gears due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the summer of 2021, Van der Poel ended up wearing the yellow leader’s jersey for six stages of the Tour de France. Then he pulled out of the Tour de France early so he could head to Tokyo where he was aiming to pick up the gold medal in mountain biking in the Olympics.
That never happened. Shortly after the Olympic mountain bike race began, Van der Poel went over the bars in a bad crash on a steep and rocky descent in the first lap of the race. Thomas Pidcock ended up taking the Olympic gold medal. Van der Poel’s recurring back problems have left his cycling future up in the air for the time being, although he’s expected to make a full recovery in the next three months.
Nevertheless, let’s take a look back at what we wrote about him and what Mathieu shared with us when we profiled him and his bike in 2020:]
Van der Poel finished second overall in the World Cup’s XCO rankings in both 2018 and ’19. He beat Nino Schurter 9 out of 10 times in their 2019 World Cup match-ups when both the Cross-Country (XCO) and Short-Track (XCC) races are included. Photo: Canyon Cycles
Some of the greatest cyclists in history have predicted that Mathieu van der Poel will be ranked among them in the years ahead.
Five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx recently predicted that Mathieu van der Poel will win the Tour de France in the future. Said Merckx, 74, “Van der Poel can win everything, even the Tour.” Van der Poel is widely considered the most talented cyclist on the planet.
Merckx, who is tied for the record of the most Tour de France wins in history (five) with Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain, is considered the greatest competitive cyclist in history. Nevertheless, some people think that Mathieu van der Poel’s career could someday eclipse even that of Eddy Merckx.
That type of success is still years away, of course. Van der Poel is still in the early part of his pro racing career. One thing is certain, though, Mathieu van der Poel is —or was—a force to be reckoned with.
Name: Mathieu van der Poel
Birthdate: January 19, 1995
Birthplace: Kapellen, Antwerp, Belgium
Height: 1.84 m (6 feet, 1/2 inch)
Weight: 75 kg (165 pounds)
Shoe size: 11
Helmet size: L
Waist: 81 EU (32-inch U.S.)
Marital status: Single
Car(s): Maserati Levante four-door
Started racing or competing: Age 5
Turned pro: 2014
Racing/riding specialty: Cycling (cyclocross, MTB, road)
Favorite course or riding area (North America): Whistler, B.C.
Favorite course or riding area (Europe): Lenzerheide, Switzerland
Favorite food: Oatmeal