"A third Tour of Flanders is fun, but so is a second Roubaix" - Alpecin-Deceuninck's big expectations for Mathieu van der Poel this spring

We don't have long to wait for the Rainbow Jersey to make his return to road racing. Mathieu van der Poel makes his bow for the 2024 season at Milano-Sanremo on the 16th of March.

"Last year he started in Strade Bianche, which was not good. The year before in Milan-San Remo, it was good," Alpecin-Deceuninck boss, Philip Roodhooft says in conversation with In de Leiderstrui, explaining the plan behind van der Poel's opening spell that also includes races such as the E3 Saxo Classic, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "We have also seen with others – such as Wout van Aert – that you can win immediately. It's not like it works now because it worked last year either. You can do the same thing, but still appear different. So it's just a matter of doing everything as well as possible and then making the best of it."

Seeing Liège-Bastogne-Liège in particular on van der Poel's calendar is something of a surprise. Only once before, in 2020, has the Dutchman visited this particular Monument. "He was very good in Liège during the corona year, but I don't think it is surprising that someone like Mathieu tries to explore something somewhere every year," Roodhooft explains. "A challenge, without generating a lot of pressure. We don't force him to do anything, but we do try to think along with him."

After another uber-successful cyclocross campaign, what can we expect from van der Poel this spring? "Making predictions is very difficult," Roodhooft answers, keeping his cards close to his chest. "The run-up is calmer, but that does not mean that the result is as good or better. We'll just have to wait and see like everyone else. If we can get close to last year, it would be very nice."

"As a team, we are mainly concerned with doing as well as possible," Roodhooft concludes. "A third Tour of Flanders is fun, but so is a second Roubaix. The collective goal for us is to achieve a successful spring, which is what we have worked hard for and what is important to us. If Mathieu van der Poel has a successful spring, then so do we. If he doesn't have that, it will be a lot more difficult for us."

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