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Mathieu van der Poel will ride this week’s five-stage Settimana Coppi e Bartali in search for race fitness for the cobbled Classics but Alpecin-Fenix manager Christoph Roodhooft has insisted that the team won’t let any stage win opportunities pass by.

Van der Poel was a last minute addition to the Milan-San Remo Alpecin-Fenix roster, having initially planned to make his season debut at the Coppi e Bartali race following an extended break due to lingering back pain. When the team announced his participation, they said he would race “without expectations or ambitions” but the Dutch rider showed his form by finishing third at Milan-San Remo.

When asked by the Wielerflits website how much of an indication that was for the classics ahead, Roodhooft responded: “That’s the big question, isn’t it? We secured that third place. But in Flanders and Roubaix the race is different. In San Remo Mathieu was able to keep a low profile for 250 kilometres in the peloton.” “But to answer your question; it remains to be seen. We can only conclude that he is on the right track form wise. With the Coppi e Bartali also in his legs, he should be ready to play his role as leader in the Classics.”

Van der Poel has been hindered by back pain since May last year, which was diagnosed as swelling on an intervertebral disc in December, with the solution being complete rest. He was off the bike for January and early in February was able to return to the home trainer before moving from short to long training rides. 

When asked if there were any short of long-term ailments evident after his Milan-San Remo return Roodhooft responded to Wielerflits that there was “nothing that is not normal after a 300-kilometre race”.

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The rider will be facing shorter days at Settimana Coppi e Bartali, with the longest stage at 166km, but a good dose of climbing through most days of the 2.1-classified event, which runs from March 22 to 26.

“Our original approach remains the same: to gain race hardness and extra race rhythm towards the Flemish classics,” Roodhooft told Wielerflits when asked about his goals for his debut at the Italian race. 

“But when opportunities present themselves, we will not pass them up. We never do that and that does not fit into the picture of current cycling. But we have no ambitions for the final classification. Winning one or two stages would be great.”

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: Simone Giuliani
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