It seems more and more clear that, if he completes all three weeks of the Tour de France, Mathieu van der Poel will win the green jersey.
The Dutchman is in blistering form, as evidenced by his back-to-back stage wins in the Tour de Suisse today and yesterday, and the largest obstacle between him and the points classification is his own inclination to ride the full month in France before heading to Tokyo for the Olympic Games.
Van der Poel now leads the Tour de Suisse overall, plus the points classification, and sits one second ahead of Julian Alaphilippe on GC. The world champion simply did not have an answer to the Dutch multi-disciplinary marvel in the closing part of today’s stage.
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It was a four-man breakaway that animated the early part of the stage, with Ben King (Rally Cycling), Remy Rochas (Cofidis), Mathias Frank (AG2R La Citroën) and Claudio Imhof (Swiss National Team) going up the road. King led them over the first categorised climb to take three points in the mountains classification.
A sequence of crashes with around 35 kilometres remaining created a frisson of hope for the break, and the quartet continued to work well together until the final climb. It was Rochas who was the last man to be caught, when a series of surging attacks from first Mathieu van der Poel and then Julian Alaphilippe reduced the gap to nothing.
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A daring attack with nine kilometres remaining almost saw Ivan Garcia Cortina seize a first win since he moved to Movistar, but he was caught in the final kilometre of the race after impressive turns from Peter Vakoc and Mauri Vansevenant.
But it was with an air of inevitability that van der Poel came through to seize the victory. He was simply too fast for the likes of Alaphilippe and Christope Laporte (Cofidis), who took the other two spots on the stage podium. The national champion of the Netherlands in his immediately identifiable red, white and blue-banded jersey blew past the opposition and won by more than a bike length.
It was the ease with which he left Alaphilippe behind that really underlined just what a threat van der Poel could be at Le Tour when it starts in a little over a fortnight’s time. If he can carry this sort of form, he will provide a dangerous threat to Sam Bennett’s (Deceuninck-QuickStep) ambitions of a second consecutive maillot vert. Today was not a true sprint, but more of an uphill finish – the sort Alaphilippe should win nine times out of ten, as the conventional wisdom goes. But he didn’t win, van der Poel did.
While in a pure sprint on the Champs Elysees, you would back Bennett, it’s relatively rare these days to see a pure sprinter such as the Irishman take green. The points classification rewards the punchier style of sprinter, the Peter Sagans and Michael Matthews of this world, and these days in the form he is showing this week, Mathieu van der Poel is the best of the lot.
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