Mathieu van der Poel has brought an end to his cyclo-cross season, with a back injury forcing him to pull out of the defence of the World Championships.
The Dutchman, who suffered a spectacular fall in the mountain bike race at the Olympic Games, has been struggling with a back injury since the middle of last year.
His brilliant effort to claim a podium finish at the 2021 Paris-Roubaix suggested his back was on the mend and would allow him to prove competitive in the winter cyclo-cross campaign.
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However, a separate knee injury delayed his return and his form in two events was well below par.
With his back not showing signs of improvement, Van der Poel has taken the decision to take some time off - meaning he will not be on the start line for a World Championships he has won three years in a row.
“I can't say much about it, it is what it is. Because of that back pain I haven’t been able to reach my desired level since the Tour. I just want that to be in the past,” Van der Poel said.
“The only remedy turns out to be a longer rest period. It would therefore be foolish to interrupt this period again and still try to make it to the World Championships. We all agree on that. Even though it is very bitter – I have participated in the World CX Championships 10 consecutive times – not being able to defend my title in the States is a real downer.”
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Attention will turn to the road season, with the Spring Classics first on the agenda. But it appears there is no time frame for the Alpecin-Fenix rider’s return.
"I'm not worried about the future of my career, but of course it frustrates me now not knowing how long this rest period will last," Van der Poel said. "We'll only set a date and goals if we can do so in a substantiated manner. Until then, I'll do what I can."
Team managers Christoph and Philip Roodhooft issued a statement, which read: "Speculations about whether it will take weeks or months are groundless. It is currently impossible to predict how fast the swelling will disappear. The treating doctors agree that it will effectively disappear with rest. That's the most important thing, both for Mathieu and for the team.
"He will only start his road season when the injury is over, and when he's been able to prepare for it properly. At this moment it makes no sense to pinpoint a date on it. We will only do that if it does."
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