Mathieu van der Poel tested his legs at Tirreno-Adriatico. It was a tough wake up call for the Dutchman, who came into the race relaxed over his modest form, but ended the race disappointed that he wasn't able to contest for result.
“The cyclocross world title was something unique, but I only had a short break after the World Cup and then trained for fourteen days in Spain, not enough to be in top shape," Van der Poel told Algemeen Dagblad. "It is just very difficult to make choices, but nothing is lost yet. If things go well in Milan-San Remo next week, everyone will say it was the right approach. That's how it always goes.”
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Tom Pidcock had brought the problem forward during the winter, as he opted out of the World Championships so as to prepare for the spring. He brought in a strong win at Strade Bianche, but his Tirreno-Adriatico was then underwhelming. Van der Poel came into the race undercooked whilst van Aert also looked to be distant from his best form after losing some training days in his post-cyclocross season training camp.
"Last year, of course, it was because of the back, but if I don't cross, I have a good build-up. That's the problem: it's so busy. I didn't want to miss the World Championships in Hoogerheide for anything in the world. But if I had to draw the perfect winter now, it would be one without cyclocross," van der Poel admits. His current position is complicated. Although there is still time, the Tour des Flandres comes in the space of three weeks, and Milano-Sanremo is already this weekend.
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At Tirreno-Adriatico he was not in contention for any of the stages and, despite helping Jasper Philipsen to two sprint wins, was from from the front anytime the road went up. Although the efforts done in the Italian race will give fruits at some point, there are worries within the Alpecin-Deceuninck camp that van der Poel's form may come too late.
“I don't think I can do much with extra training this week. It is especially important that I recover well from the Tirreno. And if there's one race where you don't have to be the best to win, it's Milano-Sanremo," he concludes, where the Belgian team is likely to give Philipsen as much protection as they are to van der Poel.
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