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Mathieu van der Poel on World Championships Win: ‘It’s a huge honour to get to wear these stripes’

By Monica Buck

In a startling turn of events, Mathieu van der Poel clinched his first-ever road world title at the World Championships in Glasgow despite a late crash that left him with a torn jersey and a broken shoe.

“I was really not pushing or taking any risks because my legs were feeling really good,” van der Poel revealed, still unable to explain how the crash happened. “And then, all of a sudden, I was on the ground and my shoe was broken.”

The Dutch cycling sensation has been in tremendous form in 2023, with two Monument victories at Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo. He managed to overcome the accident and soloed to an awe-inspiring win in Glasgow.

The crash was particularly mystifying to van der Poel, who was left to fend off difficulties, as he explained: “That made it hard to put power in the pedals, especially because I realized that the cleat was also broken so I didn’t have a lot of power anymore. I think some adrenaline took over as well. So I’m really happy and lucky as my bike wasn’t broken or anything and I could just continue.”

This unexpected twist did little to dampen van der Poel’s determination. Though he conceded his confidence had taken a hit, his instinct took over, enabling him to blank out the pain and continue toward victory.

“It’s just instinct, I guess,” he said. “You just want to go as fast as possible on the bike again and luckily, I could find my rhythm. When I saw the time gap going up again, it gave me a confidence boost, and then the first time they showed the one-minute mark, I knew that on the way to the finish line, I could take it easier through the corners and that I would make it. It’s such an incredible feeling.”

The Glasgow circuit was filled with drama, including sweeping bends, fast-flowing corners, and steep climbs. These features appeared to perfectly suit van der Poel who had already taken the cyclo-cross world title earlier in the year in the Netherlands.

“It’s difficult to make a really big difference in the corners [on this course],” he explained. “You just need really good legs because the course is just so hard here.”

Van der Poel’s victory concluded a 38-year wait for a Dutch road world-title winner. Reflecting on this significant achievement, he expressed personal satisfaction but appeared to downplay the broader national implications.

His attention now turns to next week’s Olympic cross-country mountain bike race in Glentress where he will face Great Britain’s Tom Pidcock.

However, the 28-year-old couldn’t resist a light-hearted comment about his immediate plans after defeating rivals Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogačar. “It will be a nice party tonight,” he joked. “I’ll make an exception as normally I wouldn’t party until next week but I have several days to recover and this is a special moment so I want to celebrate. It’s a huge honour to get to wear these stripes.”

With the road race behind him, van der Poel looks forward to donning his rainbow jersey for the next year, marking an extraordinary moment in a career that continues to dazzle the world of cycling.