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Wout van Aert congratulating race winner Mathieu Van Der Poel after a finish sprint at the Benidorm World Cup in Spain in January (Photo: Kristof Ramon)

Mathieu van der Poel has said his winter has could not be going any better, with the road and cyclocross world champion already having done two solid months training, mostly in Spain.

The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider has met up with fellow phenom Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) for training rides, saying he gets on very well with the rider he took the road race rainbow bands from this year.

However, his relationship with Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma) is not as good, with Van der Poel having regularly denied the Belgian major wins in the decade since they first clashed in top tier racing on the junior cyclocross scene.

Van der Poel said he has found it easier to develop a rapport with Evenepoel, whom he has met every couple of weeks for training while the duo have based themselves in Spain, away from the wet Belgian weather, during the winter.

Van der Poel after winning Milan Sanremo this year, with the Dutch rider ending the campaign in the rainbow jersey (Photo: Dario Berlingheri)

“I often meet Remco in Spain to train together. Four or five times in the past few months. We get along well,” Van der Poel told Het Nieuwsblad as Alpecin-Deceuninck met up for a team training camp, of 51 riders across its teams, in Benicassim, Spain.

The relationship with him is different from that with Wout. To put it bluntly, he is not a competitor in the races I ride. Maybe later in Liège, but I don’t know if he really sees me as a competitor there,” he laughed.

Van der Poel said while he will ride some cyclocross races over the festive period, he now regards himself as a road rider and not a cyclocross racer. He added he no longer had any issues with his back.

He enjoyed an incredible road season this year, with wins in Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix and the Worlds. He also claimed overall victory at Baloise Belgium Tour and was 2nd in Tour of Flanders.

But given how his winter has gone so far, and with plans to complete a short cyclocross season as he has his eye on the spring classics, he is very confident for the 2024 road campaign.

“I can once again reach the level of last year, I am convinced of that. You don’t know whether I will win the same amount. But what I’m thinking about now: how can I achieve the form I had in Glasgow last year in the classic spring?” he said.

“I was really even better there than in March and April. My program will be largely the same: from Milan-San Remo, with the Ronde and Roubaix as my biggest goals. I will also include Ghent-Wevelgem. The question is whether I will also do Liège-Bastogne-Liège afterwards. That option is there, but it is not a certainty.”

The Olympic Games were now on his radar and he said he may ride the Tour and then the road race at the Olympics two weeks later. If he wanted to do both the MTB race and road race at the Games he would need to miss the Tour.

However, it would not be possible to ride the Tour and MTB race in Paris four days later, saying he had learned he could not switch straight from road to MTB as he needed a period of training in between.

“It is also possible that I do the Tour and afterwards also the Vuelta to go to the World Championships,” he said; an option that would mean missing the OIympics, though that appears unlikely.

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