Whilst Mathieu van der Poel is nearing his return to cyclocross action, anticipation is already abounding about which potential races will welcome the Dutchman on the road in 2024. Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad, van der Poel explains nothing is set in stone just yet.
"I am now trying to expand my base with a lot of endurance training so that I can stretch my spring longer. In any case, I will aim to be in my very best shape in Liège, but I am realistic," he admits, referencing the goal of adding another monument to his palmares. "When men like Tadej Pogacar or Remco Evenepoel start at La Redoute, it is almost impossible for me to join in. The difference in weight is too great for that."
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Speaking of Evenepoel, both he and van der Poel were recently spotted training together on the roads of Southern Spain. "The relationship with him is different from that with Wout van Aert because we are less competitors," van der Poel says of his friendship with the time-trial world champion. "Maybe in Liège later, but I don't know if he really sees me as a competitor there."
In terms of van der Poel's plans for his 2024 calendar, there are three options. "I'll ride the Tour and then I'll only do the road race at the Games. Or I don't ride the Tour and then I do the road race and mountain biking," he says. "What I'm certainly not going to do is ride the Tour and then leave early, like I did for Tokyo. The Olympic road race falls two weeks after the Tour and that is actually ideal. You can compare that with the World Championships in Glasgow this year, where I also achieved a very good level by riding the Tour earlier. But the mountain bike is too early, one week after the Tour. Then I can never reach my best level."
"The third option on the table is to do the Tour and the Vuelta. Ultimately I will decide myself, in consultation with the team," he concludes.