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Mathieu Van der Poel will skip mountain bike event at Paris Olympics to focus on road race

Mathieu van der Poel

LIEGE, BELGIUM - APRIL 21: (L-R) Mathieu van der Poel of Alpecin - Deceuninck during the match between Liege v Bastogne - Liege 2024 - Men’s Elite at the Liege on April 21, 2024 in Liege Belgium (Photo by Pim Waslander/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Soccrates Images/Getty Images

BRUSSELS — World champion Mathieu van der Poel will focus on the Olympic road race at the Paris Games this summer, after competing in the Tour de France, and skip mountain biking.

The versatile Dutch racer said that combining the Tour and the road race is “the most logical” choice.

“It ensures that I have a little more time and thus can prepare longer and better,” he said in a statement released by his Alpecin-Deceuninck team.

Van der Poel has won titles in many disciplines and thought at one point about competing in the cross-country mountain bike event at the Olympics. But he faced what he called a “difficult puzzle to put together” with the route of the road race suiting his skills.

“Just the road race? Only mountain biking? Or both?” he said. “Whether or not in combination with the Tour de France, which I personally consider the best possible preparation for the Games.”

Van der Poel finally made his decision.

“Let’s say I chose the most logical thing,” he said. “So, in consultation with the team, I opted for a slightly longer rest period, after which I can build up to the Tour de France and the Olympic road race without time pressure.”

The 29-year-old rider, who has been in impressive form this year with victories at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix classics, said he will work in support of teammate Jasper Philipsen “in his hunt for stage wins and a possible green jersey” of Tour de France’s best sprinter.

“And the goal is to win a stage myself this year,” he said. “Last year I got sick when there were a few stages where I had chances. Hopefully I will be spared from that in this edition.”

Van der Poel added that wearing the world champion’s rainbow jersey this season played a role in his decision to race at the Tour.

“It’s a special year,” he said. “As world champion I like to ride in that jersey as much as possible. So I also prefer not to miss the Tour de France. And that proved to be a good preparation last year, then towards the World Championships.”

He also hinted that he could compete in mountain biking at future Olympics. Van der Poel crashed out of the mountain bike race at the Tokyo Olympics.

“Who knows what’s still possible in 2028 in Los Angeles? That’s still a long time away, but I’ll be in a different phase of my career then,” he said. “Maybe then I can put everything on that mountain biking. This year the combination is just too difficult.”

Van der Poel, who is currently training in Spain, will not compete before the June 29-July 21 Tour de France. The men’s Olympic road race is a challenging 170-mile (273-kilometer) trek set to take place on Aug. 3.