After two days on his first Tour de France, Mathieu van der Poel has added a stage victory and the famous leader’s yellow jersey to an impressive collection of triumphs on mountain bikes and in one-day classics. Here are three things to know about a rising star.

Mathieu who?

Van der Poel’s father is Dutch, his mother is French and he was born in Belgium. He inherited cycling genes from both parents. His mother is the daughter of Raymond Poulidor, one of France’s best loved cyclists.  Dad Adrie won cyclocross and mountain biking titles as well as Tour de France stages and one-day road classics. Like his father, Mathieu first made a name for himself in cyclocross. He is targeting a mountain-bike gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

Mathieu followed his older brother David into teams run by Philip Roodhooft who runs the Belgian Alpecin-Fenix team.

“When I was 18, I was spotted by Philip Roodhooft,” David, who is 29 years to Mathieu’s 26, recently told AFP.

“They offered me a chance to ride for them as a prospect. Mathieu joined me two years later.”

The younger van der Poel accumulated a string of cyclo-cross and junior road race titles, but became a star in the Netherlands after his first major road victory, the Dutch Amstel Gold Race in 2019.

Tireless attacker

Van der Poel does not have the raw finishing speed of the top sprinters but, big for a road cyclist, he has immense power and can build victories from long range, attacking a good distance from the finish line. On Sunday, he launched his strike on the first of two late climbs up the short but brutal Mur-de-Bretagne. His panache and aggression attract fans but the tactic is risky. At the 2019 world championships in Yorkshire, he went early in the rain but cracked and finished nearly 11 minutes behind the winner, Dane Mads Pedersen.

“Sometimes I attack too early”, van der Poel conceded in an interview with Velo Magazine in March 2020.

Strade Bianche 2021 – Mathieu Van Der Poel (NED – Alpecin-Fenix)

Tempted by Paris-Roubaix

Poulidor, always a contender in the Tour de France but never quite a winner, was nicknamed ‘the eternal second’. On Sunday, van der Poel filled one hole in the family resume when he put on the yellow jersey his grandfather never wore during a race. He has talked of another target: Paris-Roubaix the only one of the five cycling one-day ‘monuments’ raced in France. Poulidor won other classics, but even though he rode the Hell of the North 18 times never finished better than fifth.

In addition to the Amstel Gold, van der Poel has won the Tour of Flanders, one of two monuments raced in Belgium. He has not yet ridden Paris-Roubaix.

“Paris-Roubaix is one of the most beautiful races of the year, I have rarely missed it on TV,” said van der Poel adding that the prospect of riding the famed cobbled road made slick with rain attracted him.

“It makes the race even more heroic and skill on the bike becomes a decisive factor.”

Mathieu Van Der Poel (NED – Alpecin-Fenix)

RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini

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