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Cyclo-cross world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Cyclo-cross world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) will return to the field on December 18 at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Rucphen in the Netherlands, according to Het Laatste Nieuws but will follow a much reduced schedule compared with last season. 

He will meet arch rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) for the first time at the World Cup in Dendermonde on December 26.

Last season, Van der Poel competed in 12 races before the World Championships in Oostende, where he overcame an early crash to reel in Van Aert, although their duel fizzled when the Belgian punctured and Van der Poel rode away to victory.

This year, the Dutchman will focus mainly on the World Cup races, which offer more points toward the starting position at the World Championships in Fayetteville, USA at the end of January. That is an important factor after the UCI opted to reset riders’ accumulated points to zero except for those gained at the 2021 World Championships. 

Van der Poel has 400 points from that victory but because he has not yet raced, he lies 21st in the UCI Rankings.

After the Alpecin-Fenix team camp in Spain, which runs from December 1-10, Van der Poel will first attempt to add to his points tally at the Rucphen World Cup in the Netherlands and the next day at the Namur World Cup in Belgium.

The following weekend he will race at the Dendermonde World Cup and possibly the Superprestige in Heusden-Zolder (December 26-27). Van der Poel’s calendar is then clear until the World Cup in Hulst on January 2.

The Dutch National Championships will take place on January 9 in Zaltbommel where, according to Wielerflits.nl, Van der Poel will defend the title he won in 2020. The race was not held in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Van der Poel’s plans include only four or five races before the National Championships compared with 11 for Van Aert. There are two more World Cup races in the weeks between the nationals and Worlds with a round in Flamanville, France on January 16 and in Hoogerheide on January 23 before the World Championships on January 30.

Van der Poel had an intense 2021 season. After winning his fourth elite ‘cross world title, he headed to the UAE Tour where he won the opening stage but had to leave the race after a team staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

He headed home for the Classics, went on to win Strade Bianche and two stages of Tirreno-Adriatico before taking fifth in Milan-San Remo, third in the E3 Classic and winning the sprint for second in his Tour of Flanders defense. 

After a break, he tackled two MTB World Cups in preparation for the Olympic Games then returned to the road, winning two stages at Tour de Suisse. At the Tour de France, he won stage 2 on the Mûr de Bretagne and led the race for six days before leaving to prepare for Tokyo.

At the Olympics, he crashed out of the men’s cross country mountain bike event on the first lap. 

Having suffered from back pain since the early season, Van der Poel took a break for rehab, returning to the road in September with the late-season rescheduled Paris-Roubaix a major target. 

He finished third from the winning move in a sprint behind Sonny Colbrelli and Florian Vermeersch.

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SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: Cycling News
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