Mathieu van der Poel: ‘I don’t know how I got to the podium’ in Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Third place a success for world champion after crash-affected day

Clock15:30, Sunday 21st April 2024
Mathieu van der Poel sprinted to third in Liège-Bastogne-Liège

© Getty Images

Mathieu van der Poel sprinted to third in Liège-Bastogne-Liège

After at one point looking like he was out of contention entirely, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) came from behind to take third in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a result he was happy with at the finish of a race better suited to the climbers.

Winner of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, the world champion was trying to win the fourth Monument of the year, but ultimately couldn’t follow Tadej Pogačar’s attack on La Redoute, and did not really battle for the win.

Read more: Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Tadej Pogačar wins with 35km solo attack

However, even being the podium was an unexpected result after Van der Poel was caught behind a crash with 100km to go and had to spend much of the middle part of the race chasing back to the lead.

“I was taking off my leg warmers and gloves and just then they fell in front of me. The road was blocked. I thought it wasn't going to be possible to get back into the race,” he explained to Sporza after the race.

“It worked out, but the best form was gone for me. The decompression after Flanders and Roubaix was slightly greater than expected.”

Even though he was able to get back on, Van der Poel was nowhere near following Pogačar when he launched his race-winning attack on the Côte de la Redoute, with the world champion admitting that the result likely would have been the same in any situation.

“Even with those legs [from Flanders and Roubaix] I wouldn't be able to do anything against Tadej Pogacar,” he said. “On La Redoute it was important for me to ride at my own pace and not get too worked up. This remained important even after that.”

After Pogačar went, Van der Poel found himself on the back foot once again as a more select chase group went up the road in front of him, and for a long time it looked like even a top-5 finish was out of reach. However, in the final 6km, he made one last dig to bring things back together behind second-placed Romain Bardet, and then ultimately won the sprint for third.

“I stayed calm and was still able to get on track. I don't really know how I managed to get to the podium, but I am very happy with this podium spot,” he said.

Read more: Human after all: Mathieu van der Poel’s invincibility ends at Amstel Gold Race

With Liège and Il Lombardia the only Monuments Van der Poel hasn’t won, and Liège clearly somewhat within reach, this result has given the Dutchman things to think about as he seeks to win all five Monuments during his career, with Liège the next logical race to target.

“I now understand why everyone says that the combination of these races with the cobblestone classics is difficult,” he said, before reflecting on his chances of winning this race in the future.

“I just have to be realistic, I wouldn't be able to follow Pogačar on La Redoute. That is food for thought for the future.”

Whilst Pogačar and others head to the Giro d’Italia, Van der Poel will now take a break after a busy spring of racing, before setting his goals for the rest of the season, which so far are expected to include the Tour de France and a return to mountain biking at the Paris Olympics.

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