Van der Poel shows class to lead Tour
Dutch prodigy Mathieu van der Poel showed why he is such a hot favourite with the bookies to win the elite World Road Race Championships in Yorkshire in two weeks’ time, taking a dominant victory on stage four of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain yesterday to secure the overall race lead.
The 24-year-old – whose grandfather is French great Raymond Poulidor – is one of a new breed of riders who competes across a variety of disciplines, including cyclocross, mountain-bike racing and road racing.
Van der Poel has won either world or European titles in all of them, not to mention classic oneday races such as the Amstel-gold earlier this year.
He showed all of his famed explosiveness at the end of a gruelling day in the North Pennines and Howgills yesterday, powering clear on the finish climb of Beast Banks in Kendal after the peloton had chased down a long-range attack by 2014 winner Dylan van Baarle (Team Ineos), France’s Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale) and Irishman Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos).
Van der Poel launched his effort with around 300 metres of the 500-metre climb remaining, winning by three seconds from a group of four riders, including Britain’s Ben Swift (Team Ineos).
“I knew that the finish suited me really well if I had good legs,” said the Corendon-circus rider. “I was confident to do a good finish here and I think the team did a great job.
“This climb is perfect for me. I really like those finish straights and it’s something I’m good at, especially after a hard stage like today.
“Attacking early was a bit of a gamble because I didn’t really know where the finish line was. I got a bit bumped in yesterday at the finish [in Newcastle, where he was second] and I didn’t want it to happen again, so I just went full gas with 300 metres to go.
“It was actually a bit far, but I immediately had a gap. With 100 metres to go the road got a bit easier so it was big enough to keep that gap until the finish line.”
Van der Poel heads into today’s fifth stage on the Wirral with a onesecond advantage over Mitcheltonscott’s Matteo Trentin, but he predicted that tomorrow’s time trial stage in Worcestershire would be key to the overall victory.
“It’s going to be a battle for sure, but I think the time trial [on stage six] will be decisive and it’s been a long, long time since I’ve done one,” he said.
“I don’t know where I stand in that discipline right now so it’s going to be really hard to be in touch with the best time trial guys here.”