Mathieu van der Poel is a professional cyclist from the Netherlands who has become one of cycling's most exciting and popular figures. He is the leading figure of Alpecin-Deceuninck and is a multiple time World and European Champion in Cyclocross, a former European Champion in Mountain Biking and a winner of races such as the Tour des Flandres, Strade Bianche and Amstel Gold Race - among wins at the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, where he has worn the yellow and pink jerseys respectively.
Name: Mathieu van der Poel
Birthday: 19 January 1995
Birthplace: Kapellen, Belgium
Nationality: The Netherlands
Turned Pro: 2014
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Mathieu van der Poel was born on the 19th January of 1995 in the Flandrien city of Kapellen, Belgium. Although he was born in Belgium, van der Poel has Dutch nationality, and is one of cycling's most popular and successful riders, being one of cyclocross and road cycling's main figures, and occasionally challenging himself aswell in Mountain Biking.
Van der Poel is a prime example of genetics playing a role in endurance sport. One of his grandfathers was Raymond Poulidor, an eight-time podium finisher at the Tour de France, an historic figure in cycling who has not been able to conquer the Grand Boucle in his career. His father Adrie van der Poel is a former Cyclocross World Champion and Tour de France stage winner, whilst his brother David van der Poel is also a successful Cyclocross rider. He is a friend but a long-term and biggest rival of Wout van Aert, a rivalry that sparked from Cyclocross and transitioned onto the road.
He is one of the faces of the Canyon bike brand and has a salary of €2 million euros per year. His FTP is said to be of approximately 454 watts which would roughly translate to 6.05W/Kg. Van der Poel is the boyfriend of Roxanne Bertels, a Belgian model and ambassador for Porsche.
Van der Poel was from very young an incredibly successful talent. Cyclocross, where he began his competitive career, saw him win virtually the entire calendar in his first years as a junior in 2011-2012, missing out on only two wins over the course of four and a half months - which included wins at the World Cup, Superprestige, European and World Championships. His 2012-2013 season was, in fact, better if it was every any possible. Out of the 24 races the Dutchman won every single one, including all the four titles he had conquered the previous season.
His success was undeniable and cyclocross was without a doubt the field to focus on his under-23 years. The 2013-2014 season, under the BKCP-Powerplus team - today known as Alpecin-Deceuninck - was the only one in which he competed fully at the level, winning the World Cup and Superprestige cups, however failing to win the World and European Championships, as a rivalry with Wout van Aert (and also Michael Vanthourenhout would begin). Nevertheless he won several races that year. 2014-2015 saw him win the Elite superprestige cup, as he finished his stint and moved towards Elite level halfway through the season. This was to be a successful move, as he became Elite World Champion in Tabor weeks later, the first of many incredibly important triumphs.
2015-2016 saw him with a slightly more reduced calendar, but nevertheless one where he managed to take several World Cup wins. It was a calmer season than the previous ones in terms of results, at the same time as he raced with the rainbow jersey. 2016-2017 saw him return to his widely winning ways, again skipping through several World Cup rounds but winning Superprestige, aswell as a total of 22 races, however beaten by Toon Aerts and Wout van Aert at the European and World Championships respctively.
In 2017-2018 he once again struggled and failed to win the Worlds as his main rival Wout van Aert succeeded. He did become European Champion in Tabor once again that year, and won World Cup, Superprestige and DVV Verzekeringen Trofee cups, alongside 31 wins throughout the season that have seen him as the overwhelming victor. 2018-2019 was another incredibly successful season with 32 wins out of 34 race days, including European and World Championships victories. In 2019-2020, as he began focusing more on road cycling, he had a slightly smaller season, however one with almost unseen success. He's won 25 out of 26 races, once again conquering the European and World Championships and multiple other races throughout the year.
2020-2021 was his first reduced year, with races only in December and January. It was a season where he did not finish a single race below second place. Van der Poel had a clear goal which was the World Championships, his final race of the season, and he has taken the title in Oostende. The 2021-2022 season had very similar goals, but in his second race day, in Heusden-Zolder following Christmas van der Poel abandoned with back pain, and posteriorly had to stay out of the bike for a whole month effectively ending his season.
In Mountain Biking van der Poel has also had a lot of success, beginning his career at pro level in 2016. He was in 2017 and 2018 developing himself amongst the very best. In 2018 he won three short-track races in the World Cup in Albstadt, Val di Sole and La Bresse, finishing then third in the World Championships, in XCO. In 2019 he won the European Championships, and won 5 short-track events, but has also made his debut winning in the XCO World Cup with victories at Nové Mesto, Val di Sole and Lenzerheide. In 2021 he returned, eyeing the Olympic Games, and won short-track events in Albstadt and Nové Mesto. He was eyeing the Olympic Gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics that year, but has crashed during the race and was forced to abandon, with back problems being further caused by it.
In the road, van der Poel was a late bloomer after many years focusing on the off-road disciplines. His talent was evident from early on however, as in the junior rankings he had extensive international calendars that had him show his best legs. In 2013, his final season as a junior, he won several races - both one-day and GC - alongside stage wins in many of them, has became Dutch and World Champion back in Firenze. The stage was set for a successful road career, but it would wait a few more years, as he mostly rode reduced summer calendars with Alpecin - Deceuninck, a Continental team until the 2019 season when it became ProTeam - and is now set to rise to World Tour level in 2023.
Van der Poel was always a crucial part of this evolution. As an under-23 rider, he succeeded in 2014 with wins at the Ronde van Limburg, a stage at the Tour Alsace, and a win and GC success at the Baltic Chain Tour. Not only in Cyclocross, but 2015 was also a modest year on the road where he didn't emerge victorious in any occasions throughout his season. 2016 would see the same situation, only with six race days on the road as he began to prioritize MTB over the road.
In 2017 van der Poel would win a stage at the Baloise Belgium Tour, the Dwars door het Hageland classic, and two stages and GC at the Boucles de la Mayenne where many cyclocross riders made their presence felt. 2018, despite the team's Continental level, van der Poel won the Boucles de la Mayenne once again, but went on to be much more successful, racing amongst the elite of the sport. He became Dutch national champion, won the Ronde van Limburg and two stage wins at the Arctic Race of Norway, and rode to a second place at the European Championships. In 2019 however, as Alpecin rose to ProTeam level, his calendar was now much broader and a big priority.
This was a breakthrough year for the Dutchman, who won a stage at the Tour of Antalya to open his year, and into the cobbled classics he won the GP de Denain. A 4th place at Gent-Wevelgem proved he was amongst the best classics riders, and soon after a win at Dwars door Vlaanderen would confirm that. His debut Tour des Flandres was his next race, where he finished in fourth position. In the weeks after van der Poel would go on to win the Brabantse Pijl and then Amstel Gold Race in incredible fashion, one of the most popular and thrilling wins in modern cycling. After a lengthy break he returned to competition at the Arctic Race of Norway where he took a stage win, won the Tour of Britain alongside three stages, and departed as a main favourite for the Yorkshire World Championships. In the rainy day, he had made it into the winning move, but cracked intensely towards the end, losing any possibility of fighting for a strong result.
In 2020 the road became his main priority. Following the Covid-19 pandemic break, he won the Dutch national championships, and a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico, eyeing the cobbled classics which would take place at the end of the year. A stage win and GC success at the BinkBank Tour would confirm his form was on spot. In the weeks that followed he finished sixth in his Liège-Bastogne-Liège debut, and into the Tour des Flandres he entered a massive battle with his long-term rival Wout van Aert. They have gone into a one-on-one sprint after the long cobbled classic, and in the sprint van der Poel took the best out of the Belgian and won his first monument.
2021 was then a year to reconsolidate his results. He started the year with a stage win at the UAE Tour, and soon in Europe he achieved great success with a very popular Strade Bianche win, beating a field of unreal quality. He had big goals for the classics season, but emerged with a fifth place at Milano-Sanremo, third at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic and second at the Tour des Flandres. 2021 was a year of new tests however, as he looked to make his Grand Tour debut at the Tour de France. He anticipated it with two stage wins at the Tour de Suisse which had his form in the right place.
Van der Poel won the second stage of the Tour de France and the Mûr-de-Bretagne. This was a very thrilling win in the hilltop finish with a solo attack which saw him put on the yellow jersey - which he very emotionally dedicated to his grandfather Raymond Poulidor who had passed away in 2019. His plan was only to race the first week, but he threw down a lot of spectacle by holding on to the race lead in the 5th stage's time-trial, joined the (successful) breakaway on stage 7, before eventually saying goodbye to the lead on the first day of high mountains on stage 8. Following the Olympic Games where he crashed out of the XCO race he took a break, and suffered from back issues. He nevertheless won the Antwerp Port Epic in September, before racing into 8th spot at the Leuven World Championships and 3rd in a memorable edition of Paris-Roubaix which featured muddy sectors all throughout.
Following the back issues that forced him to stay away from the bike for a whole month in January 2022, he was in a constant race against time to return in time for the spring classics. In traditional form however, he succeeded, returning at Milano-Sanremo where he immediately rode to third place. He followed that up with a stage win at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, a win at Dwars door Vlaanderen and ultimately his second triumph at the Tour des Flandres - after he resisted the attacks of Tadej Pogacar and later sprinted again to the win.
His spring saw one of the most amazing comeback stories. He raced on after, finishing Amstel Gold Race in 4th and Paris-Roubaix in 9th position. He had eyed a debut at the Giro d'Italia that year, and he won the opening stage in Visegrád to pull on the pink jersey, which he held until the 4th stage of the race into Mount Etna. He did not abandon the race however, as he looked to complete his first Grand Tour. Although he's tried on several occasions, he didn't manage to get another stage win. Van der Poel then suffered and abandoned the Tour de France without any meaningful result citing fatigue, from the extensive racing and training period that came before. His 2022 season didn't end there, but would not look any better, as at the Wollongong World Championships he was involved in an altercation with two teenage girls the night before the race, which led to him being arrested, and abandon the race early on despite being allowed to start.
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