"He should be able to tackle Zurich" - Dutch national coach believes Mathieu van der Poel has a shot at victory at World Championships

Next Saturday, Mathieu van der Poel will return to action at the Tour de France Grand Départ in Florence. After two months of absence, the most important part of the current world champion's season is ahead with Olympic Games in sight.

National coach Koos Moerenhoet is trying to put pressure on Van der Poel's team: "Of course I don't interfere with Alpecin-Deceuninck's tactics in the Tour, but last year's approach was very successful. That was a sensible way of racing in the Tour," he says about his leader Van der Poel in a chat with In de Leiderstrui. "If you have to turn yourself inside out every day, the question is whether that is ideal. On the other hand: look at Dylan van Baarle, who was busy every day in his role. He was good in Glasgow too." Last year, Mathieu mainly spent his days working as a lead-out for Jasper Philipsen, the sprinter of Alpecin-Deceuninck.

The fact that Van der Poel did not race before the Tour for a long time is a smart move according to Moerenhout. "His entire trajectory is focused on Tour and Olympic Games. Of course he didn't race much, but he did a very good preparation at altitude. He will only now start competing again at the Tour, but in terms of freshness that is ideal. Because that's how it is with the Tour: it's the only race where you can really come out completely exhausted mentally and physically."

How did the conversations between national coach and rider go in recent weeks? "You keep in touch throughout the year, but these are often short conversations that really mean something. I leave him alone as much as possible. We know each other how we work, there are already so many people who want something from him."

At the World Championships in Zurich, Van der Poel starts as defending champion. The course promises to be harder than years before, but would it be too hard for the Dutchman? "Mathieu is really a championship rider. He can handle almost all courses. Rwanda may be a climbing course next year, but he should be able to tackle Zurich," assesses the national coach, in contrary to what organisers claimed. "It's a bit of a mix between the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. So I am confident that he will succeed. But he will have to be in top shape to do well there."

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