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Nils van der Poel: From Skates to Bikes?

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The name van der Poel is well known among cycling aficionados because of the freakishly talented Alpecin-Fenix rider, first name Mathieu, who has won prestigious races in road racing, MTB and cyclo-cross and most recently out-thought and out-pedalled none other than two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar to win the Tour of Flanders for the second time.

But if Jumbo-Visma or EF Education-EasyPost have their way, another van der Poel, first name Nils, could join Mathieu in the peloton. The two are not related. For those who have never heard of Nils van der Poel, he won two gold medals at the Beijing Winter Olympics – in speed skating, winning at both the 5,000 m and 10,000 m distances. He has also won the 2022 World Allround Speed Skating Championship and the 2021 World Single Distance Championships at 5,000 m and 10,000 m. And in March of this year, he came first at 5,000 m at the Speed Skating World Cup finals and as a result won the total Men’s Long Distances World Cup for 2021–22.

So Nils – who is 25 years old and Swedish – obviously has the legs and the stamina to be a successful cyclist. And no wonder, for his training program involves a lot of cycling as he describes in detail in a paper he wrote, called How to skate a 10K. For example, in the first part of his training program to prepare for the Winter Olympics, which was devoted to building up aerobic power, his target was to cycle 33 hours a week, the week consisting of five days, for he rested on weekends. A typical aerobic training week looked like this:

  1. Monday: 7h biking at 260W
  2. Tuesday: 6h biking 250W
  3. Wednesday: 2h x-country skiing + 4h biking at 250W
  4. Thursday: 7h biking at 265W
  5.  Friday: 6h biking at 240W

What van der Poel (Nils) calls the threshold training season followed aerobic training and lasted for 10 weeks. Again, it included a monstrous amount of cycling:

  1. Monday: 5h biking (5min 200W, 6min 260W, 4x30min 401W with 5min rest, 2,5h 220W)
  2. Tuesday: 5h biking (5min 200W, 6min 260W, 5x20min 405W with 4min rest, 3h 220W)
  3. Wednesday: 5h biking (5min 200W, 6min 260W, 6x15min 408W with 4min rest, 3h 220W)
  4. Thursday: 5h biking (5min 200W, 6min 260W, 4x20min 405W with 4min rest, 3h 220W)
  5. Friday: 5h biking (5min 200W, 6min 260W, 9x10min 406W with 3min rest, 2,5h 220W)

In the third part of his training program, which he called the specific season, van der Poel used cycling to warm up and to accompany his intense speed skating training (the 10k sessions below refer to skating):

  1. Monday: 10k session + 2,5h biking at 210W
  2. Tuesday: 10k session + 2,5h biking at 210W
  3. Wednesday: 10k session + 2,5h biking at 210W
  4. Thursday: 10k session + 3h biking at 210W
  5. Friday: 10k session + 3h biking at 210W

No wonder the WorldTour teams are excited by the prospect of having Nils  – who has retired from competitive ice skating – riding for them. According to the Dutch newspaper Wielerflits, both Jumbo-Visma and EF Education-EasyPost have asked van der Poel if they could test him but he has not yet responded. Both teams have refused to confirm the reports.

If Nils van der Poel did join Jumbo-Visma, he would be the third rider they recruited from other sports. Primož Roglič came to cycling after a career as a ski jumper, and Amber Kraak came to the Jumbo-Visma women’s team from the Dutch national rowing team.