As Mathieu van der Poel sprinted to victory at Dwars Door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, he was being willed on by his father from a team car just a couple of kilometres away. Adri van der Poel, winner of the 1986 Tour of Flanders, had spent the day as a helper for the Corendon-Circus team, handing out bidons at the top of the Knokteberg, and revelled in his son’s first WorldTour win and major breakthrough as a Classics star.
Like his father, Van der Poel won the cyclo-cross world title earlier this year, and hopes are higher than ever that he might just emulate him again with victory at Flanders on Sunday.
A former junior road race world champion, the 24-year-old Van der Poel has spent most of his career focusing on cyclo-cross and mountain bike, but won the Dutch national title on the road last year. This year, he is riding his first spring Classics campaign and is already off to a flyer. Victory at the GP de Denain towards the end of March was one thing, but his Dwars victory – off the back of an eye-catching fourth-place performance at Gent-Wevelgem – showed he already belongs with the very best.
“So far, his career has been built up very well. He hasn’t gone to big races too young. His main goal was to win one race in the early part of this season, and he already has two. Everything is going very well so far,” Adri van der Poel told Cyclingnews in Waregem.
What caught the eye at Dwars Door Vlaanderen – and indeed at Denain and Gent-Wevelgem – was Van der Poel’s all-out aggression. His director Michel Cornelisse had given some advance warning, saying the Classics would be a ‘playground’ for him, but it has still been surprising the way a novice has gone on the attack so early.
The older Van der Poel says that’s always been the way, though did warn it wouldn’t always work out the way it did at Denain and Dwars.
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