Mathieu van der Poel has dominated the 2023-24 cyclocross season, powering away from the field and rarely having to look back in each race to take eight wins from eight starts. However, his father Adrie believes the best is yet to come from the current cyclocross and road race world champion, with a ‘few per cent’ still to be found ahead of the new road season.
Van der Poel enjoyed the best season of his career in 2023 as he claimed two Monument wins at Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, before adding the Glasgow World Championships road race and rainbow jersey to his palmares.
That success will be difficult to match but his father sees no reason why the cyclocross and road World Champion can’t replicate his 2023 form.
Van der Poel started the new year with a bang by finishing the GP Sven Nys 1:55 ahead of his closest competitor and long-term rivals Wout van Aert.
“A few per cent, I think so,” said Adrie van der Poel of his son’s room for improvement to WielerFlits.
“He is also still under construction. Maybe he is a little further along in the build-up [than his competitors]. This also ensures that he has a good foundation and he can continue to build on it. There are still some possibilities there, especially because the training work for the road season is completely different.
“I assume he can match last year’s level on the road. But, of course, nothing should go wrong. I think he just took a lot of confidence from last year.”
Van der Poel’s next big target will be a sixth cyclocross world title in Tabor, Czechia on February 4., which in his current form looks as though it could be a formality.
No one has come close to matching the strength or technical ability of the flying Dutchman in recent weeks, particularly impressing on sand but also doing it against top-tier opposition.
Both Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) have been present at recent participations of Van der Poel, but even they have had to succumb under the World Champion’s unrelenting pressure within the opening few laps of racing.
The ‘big three’ has been more of a ‘big one’ so far this season.
The back pain that lingered and interfered with van der Poel’s form during the past two cyclocross seasons seem to have subsided, leaving him even stronger and more dominant than we may have seen before.
“I think it speaks for itself. We knew that Mathieu was really good conditionally. Maybe not 100% yet, but those last few percent are the hardest thing to get. In addition, he is also technically at a fairly high level. That also contributed to his winning those crosses,” said Adrie van der Poel.
“How important is it that he no longer has back problems? I don’t hear him talking about it, while that was constantly the case last year. As a rider, you always feel something. It’s just fine at the moment.”
Despite his incredible form, the only slip in Van der Poel’s recent performances was a fine for spitting at spectators who had been booing and abusing him around each lap of the course at the Hulst World Cup.
Organisers expressed their disdain to the few ill-behaved spectators at the event, which Adrie van der Poel similarly spoke of to Het Laatste Nieuws as reported by WielerFlits.
“It indicates the level of people we are dealing with here. Look, it’s simple. If you don’t have the discipline to stop after two beers, stay home,” said Adrie van der Poel.
“It’s a shame that a few miscreants can ruin such an entire cross.”
Van der Poel will next be in action on Thursday at the iconic X2O Trofee cyclocross round in Koksijde alongside Van Aert and Pidcock, before heading to the Zonhoven World Cup.
He will be look to maintain his 100% win record before worlds in February and so end his cycloctoss season with 14 wins in 14 races.