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The Arctic Race of Norway kicks off today, with an in-form Van der Poel hunting stage wins

Joseph Delves
15 Aug 2019

Tough conditions could suit the Dutchman as he returns from a summer spent smashing the mountain bike scene

After a break-out Classics season that saw him take wins at Amstel Gold, Dwars door Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl, Mathieu van der Poel spent his summer racing mountain bikes. Bagging a trio of wins at recent mountain bike World Cup rounds, he’s now returning to the road at the often rain-lashed Arctic Race of Norway.

Looking to further hone his form ahead of a tilt at the World Championships in Yorkshire this September, he’ll be lining up beside French national champion Warren Barguil and Kazakhstan national champion Alexey Lutsenko.

The 2.HC rated UCI Europe Tour race might not have a huge profile, but a tough route and stunning scenery often make it worth tuning in for. Returning having won the points competition last year, Van der Poel has similar goals this time around.

'Overall, I think the Arctic Race of Norway is a little bit too hard for me,' he explained recently. 'The climbing was already a bit too hard for me last year and from what I’ve seen, it’s even harder this year, so it’s not really an objective for me to win the overall classification.

'But I’ll certainly try to win a stage or two again when it comes to bunch sprints, and then I’ll position my teammates who are more prepared than me for climbing.'

Perhaps more importantly though, the next four days will be an opportunity to reacquaint himself with racing on the road after a summer spent on the dirt.

Having won the Cyclocross World Championships in 2015 and 2019, Van der Poel will soon be looking to add a further set of rainbow bands to his collection at the Road World Champs on 29th September.

Currently many bookies’ odds-on favourite at around 10/3, he leads Peter Sagan (4/1) and Julian Alaphilippe (8/1) in their estimation.