Mathieu van der Poel: “I'm quite okay with being beaten when I'm not the strongest"

Mathieu van der Poel has stormed to a brilliant win at Milano-Sanremo, however his spring is far from easy. In the cobbled classics he's bound to find the competition of a very strong Jumbo-Visma, as well as Tadej Pogacar at the Tour des Flandres.

“It's something I don't really think about anymore because it's been going on for so long it feels natural to be with him at the front of a race," van der Poel said in an interview with the Eurosport GCN Show regarding his rivalry with Wout van Aert. "You have to push your own limits to try and beat him. I mean, if you were to win every race with five minutes, it would be unnecessary to train any more, but now you know you have to be at your top level to try and win the races because the level in general is becoming really high.”

The Alpecin-Deceuninck is aiming for a third win in Flandres and has shown his chances at the E3 Saxo Classic. There he rode on the offensive and simultaneously withstood the attacks of Tadej Pogacar. However in the final sprint he was beaten by van Aert. “I'm quite okay with being beaten when I'm not the strongest. That's something I've learned in the past years when I competed and of course, it makes it a bit easier when you've won already a lot of beautiful races," he argued.

Although he hopes that won't be the story in the upcoming weekends. He also admits the pressure is not as high as Flandres is already on his palmarès. Wout van Aert on the other hand has been criticized by Belgian media for helping Christophe Laporte into victory at Gent-Wevelgem. "If it was your chance to win your first race there, then for sure it would be a different story. But for me I just try to be respectful against the other riders and try to beat them the next day.”

Asked about his Grand Tour plans, he also talks of changes. After riding the whole Giro d'Italia last year he suffered from fatigue quite a lot and was virtually absent in the Tour de France until he abandoned. “For sure we try to make it a bit easier than last year, of course, because there's only one Grand Tour which already makes a big difference."

"So it will be a bit the same on the road as I did two years ago with the Italian races. And then I had the Classics in Belgium and then I will go from Tour de Suisse to the Tour de France. For me, the main objective is also to try and pick out my stages that I try to win and get to Paris," he concluded.

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