Mathieu van der Poel has admitted that he is considering retirement from the 2022 Tour de France, revealing that he considered stepping off the bike during Stage 6.
Van der Poel has endured a difficult opening week of the race, failing to figure prominently on several stages that appeared well-suited to a rider of his considerable talents.
The thought that Alpecin-Deceuninck may have been saving their star Dutchman
for a tilt at victory on the cobbles on Stage 5 was proved wrong when Van der Poel failed to make an early selection, and the 27-year-old was again dropped on Stage 6.
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After the finish in Longwy, Van der Poel conceded that he did not know why he was struggling so badly, confessing that he had contemplated not finishing the stage.
The Dutchman acknowledged that another difficult day would likely mark the end of his second appearance at the Tour.
"I thought a couple of times about retiring," Van der Poel said after finishing
nearly ten minutes down on stage-winner Tadej Pogacar.
"I thought about getting off the bike. It was not a good day, I have nothing more to add. I was able to continue, but if Friday is still like this I don't think I will resist for another day.
"Things can turn. Except that it is useless to continue riding if you are dropped at the first climb. Something is wrong, even if I don't know why."
Van der Poel played a busy, proactive role at the Giro d'Italia, winning the opening stage in Hungary, but has failed to rediscover that sort of form.
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He fears he may have over-extended himself in attempting to compete at both Grand Tours.
"I knew that the Giro-Tour combination was not going to be an easy combination," Van der Poel explained. "But I didn't expect it to be so disappointing.
"For me, three weeks of racing is different from a one day race. This also applies mentally. At the Giro there was the possibility of the pink jersey and I still wanted to finish the race.
"And now here we are. I can't change things."
Van der Poel made his Tour debut last year, sensationally taking the yellow jersey with a remarkable attack up the Mur-de-Bretagne en route to Stage 2 victory.
He left before the start of Stage Nine to prepare for the Olympics, but crashed heavily during the mountain bike event at the Tokyo Games.
Lingering pain in the back from that crash disrupted the start of Van der Poel's 2022 season, but the Alpecin-Fenix rider recovered sufficiently to win the Tour of Flanders in the spring.
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