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We are afraid of Van der Poel: QuickStep's biggest rival for the Cobbled Classics

Sports director Wilfried Peeters admits his team is worried about Van der Poel but has plan to beat him

Joe Robinson
15 Jan 2020

Deceuninck-QuickStep have been the most dominant team in the Spring Classics for over two decades. With seven victories apiece at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix since 2003, the they've managed at least one rider on the podium of both races since 2017, very often occupying more than one space on the three steps.

This relentless consistency has seen them become the most feared team in professional cycling during the holy week of Flanders and Roubaix.

However, for the 2020 season, it is Deceuninck-QuickStep who look set to do the worrying about the newest rider on the block, Mathieu van der Poel.

Talking to Cyclist in Calpe, Spain at a recent team camp, sports director and Spring Classics expert Wilfried Peeters shared his opinion on the Dutch 'superstar'.

'I have never witnessed a rider with such a natural talent on the bike as Mathieu van der Poel,' said Peeters. 'I am very afraid of Van der Poel because he is coming on and improving with every race on the road. He is truly a special talent.'

Last year saw the Dutchman flirt with the Spring Classics for the first time in his short career that has spanned cyclocross, mountain biking and the road.

Riding for the ProContinental Corendon-Circus team, the 24-year-old won the Gran Pix Denain and WorldTour-level Dwars door Vlaanderen while also managing fourth at Gent-Wevelgem.

In his debut at a Monument, he took fourth riding the Tour of Flanders, a result that does not tell the whole story.

This placing came after a solo 40km chasing down of the front group after a nasty crash with 60km left to race. When Van der Poel regained contact alone, he then even managed to launch an attack of his own. 

Peeters was in the team car that day, observing Van der Poel in what he believes is one of the greatest performances he has ever seen. 

'What he did last year at the Tour of Flanders was incredible, the way he managed to come back from that crash and return to the front, it’s something I’m yet to see in all my career,' said Peeters. 'I genuinely think he has the ability to win every one-day race he enters.'

It begs the question: how do you stop a rider with such talent? If anyone is to have the answer, it is Peeters, a man who has masterminded Cobbled Classics wins for the likes of Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra and Philippe Gilbert.

For Peeters, it is a matter of racing smart against Van der Poel's strength and taking advantage of his instincts to ride in an aggressive way.

'The way in which we can stop him is through tactics,' explained Peeters. 'He is a very attacking rider who races through instinct and not so much tactics. Here, he can make mistakes and that’s when we can take advantage.'