The Cyclocross World Champion will soon get back to the field. Mathieu van der Poel shares his ultimate goal for the 2023-2024 season and alongside that, he also finally shares his thoughts on the threatening declarations of UCI president David Lappartient.
"I don't do cyclocross racing just to win again in Diegem. I want to peak once, at the World Championships, and if I don't reach my level in the other races, as was the case last year, then so be it. I want to become world champion again," van der Poel said in words to Het Nieuwsblad, quite decisively. "I have been training in Spain for two months now. Now with the team in Benicassim and previously near Moraira, where I have a house. I spent three days in Belgium in between and that was not pleasant."
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The Dutchman complained about the weather back home, but in Spain he's been building on his form. After ending his road season relatively early, he's had time to rest and will likely enter the CX season in good form. Taking into consideration that his first race will be at the start of the Christmas block, he will have no option but to quickly find race rhythm. He will build towards the World Championships where he'll seek a sixth rainbow jersey - and title revalidation, without the presence of Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock.
The three riders are under threat of not being allowed to race World Championships however, if David Lappartient's threat would come to be. The president of the UCI suggested that it is a possibility that riders who don't race all World Cup rounds would not be allowed at the World Championships. In the 2022-2023 season none of the female athletes scored points in all rounds, and only three male riders did. Effectively, enabling this rule would automatically exclude some of the discipline's stars. “I think they are panicking at the UCI," van der Poel believes. The UCI own the World Cup and is looking for solutions to make it more attractive. It has lowered significantly after it's expansion from 9 to 14 events in 2021-2022.
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"Would Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock suddenly no longer be allowed to compete in the World Championship? And not Fem van Empel either? That doesn't make sense. The World Cup must remain something special but they messed that up themselves due to the oversupply. You used to be proud that you could ride in the World Cup," van der Poel argues. "I don't think anyone has that at the moment.”
Whilst most responses were contained, van der Poel's words point out the obvious flaw with the rule. Ultimately, it becomes difficult to argue how this would benefit the sport in any way. “I have no opinion. Anyone can ride the World Championships, even if you ride zero races. That's your right. You don't have to ride crosses to do that. I understand that it is not that fun for them, but they have somewhat contributed to it themselves. I am not really concerned about it.”