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Tom Dumoulin: “If I'm being completely honest, I don't give Mathieu van der Poel much of a chance at Liège”

Tom Dumoulin: “If I'm being completely honest, I don't give Mathieu van der Poel much of a chance at Liège”

Sunday, April 21, 2024 at 7:30 am

interview It has kept people busy in recent days: can Mathieu van der Poel win Liège-Bastogne-Liège or not? The 29-year-old world champion believes it is possible, but former teammate Tom Dumoulin is less enthusiastic. “If Tadej Bujarar has the same legs he had this spring, he will explode when he wants to,” says the former Giro d'Italia and World Time Trial Championship winner. Cycling.

Dumoulin himself rode eight times No Duane. His best result was 12th, in his last start of 2020. Liège-Bastogne-Liège was often his final motivation towards the Giro d'Italia. Tade Pogacar is following the same path this year, so the 33-year-old Dutchman knows very well how the Slovenian must feel now. The UAE leader stayed high in the Sierra Nevada after the Tour of Catalunya which he dominated with teammates Felix Grosschartner and Rafaje Majka. Last week he returned to Monaco, and since Friday, the Slovenian prodigy has been in Wallonia and the surrounding area.

How did you always accommodate the combination of altitude and Liege?
“I was always at my best after about two weeks of altitude training. So, when I usually came back from the altitude a few days before Liège, I wasn't usually at my peak. However, nowadays you see that the real standouts like “Primož Roglič and Pogačar come back from the height and fly straight away. They seem to be able to do it. I found it difficult. It's different for everyone.”

In his first LBL appearance, MVDP came in sixth place. Dumoulin finished 12th in the same group – Photo: Cor Vos

“Did Pogačar come back earlier this week? That's early. Sometimes I don't come back until the Thursday or even the Friday before Liège. So it will of course be shorter in the cycle. Pogačar probably handled it more intelligently than I did at the time But since the Giro always starts two weeks after Liège, I wanted to come back as late as possible and then decided to spend less time in Liège, which was always the case. The choice of Pogačar is different, and then you can simply be the best in Liège.

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What's it like to train for a long time without competing and then suddenly have to put your body back into race mode?
“You're always hungry, because you've been on that mountain for weeks. You weren't there for nothing, you worked hard out there. So you want to show that you worked hard in your first race. Motivation wasn't an issue for me in the first race after a training period on Heights, and that won't be the case for Pogacar either. I just expect him to be good and the only question is whether he is already at the top of his game at all, or whether this still has to happen towards the Giro anyway Pogačar with 95% could still win this race with two fingers up his nose.

Of course, everyone is talking about that match between Pogacar and Van der Poel. But in your opinion, is this a duel, what chance does Mateo actually have?
“Well, if Pogačar is giving his all from top to bottom at La Redoute, I don't think there's much that can be done about it. If I'm completely honest, I don't give Matteo much of a chance. Then he simply falls short, because he's heavier built. The scenario where the two lead to the finish line is very unlikely for me Let's be honest: Pogačar has better chances to win on Sunday You can think of hundreds of scenarios on how Mathieu van der Poel or anyone else could beat Pogačar but I think if “Pogacar's team dominated everything and he was as good as he was throughout pre-season. He will explode when he wants to.”

Pogacar performed a wonderful song at Strade Bianche – Photo: Cor Vos

Where is this water opportunity located?
“He's basically hoping that a small group stays together. That Matteo, for example, evades attention on a slightly steep stretch and drives away at full speed. That they're complaining for a moment. That seems like the most plausible scenario to me. But don't say Never. Let's say that Pogačar is only a little lower, because he is still feeling his training on the rises and that Mathieu suddenly finds his legs from Flanders and Roubaix again then Pogačar will not be able to take him out and then in a sprint with two against each other on a flat road Clearly, Matteo has the best chance.

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It has a lot to do with Van der Poel and Pogacar, and we are also involved in that. But who else?
“Well, since last Wednesday Stefan Williams! That was impressive, you know. Well, I guess last Wednesday isn't a real indicator of Sunday, because you clearly saw the effect of the weather there. But actually we only have two names. I don't know if I should expect a lot from Tom Pidcock in Liège and he will be involved in the final but I doubt whether he will make things really difficult for Bujarar.

There's also Michael Matthews and Simon Yates. Maybe Joao Almeida. If the rest of us don't pay attention and the UAE will send him to the front…but other than that I don't have many names. Normally I would have said Matthias Skilmoz, but I guess he didn't miss out on Wednesday, haha. Although I also think that due to the harsh weather on Wednesday and the situation at the Amstel Gold Final, we haven't seen some of the guys yet.

Then I think, for example, about Benoît Cosnefroy, De Brabantse Beagle may be of a lower level, but he won there with a surplus. In Amstel he was caught up in the team's tactics and in Flèche Wallonne he performed well again with fourth place, perhaps a little affected by the weather. This could suddenly be a good thing on Sunday. Although I also think the boys who rode on Wednesday already took off their jackets.

In any case. If Bojar is not sick and comes from the heights with both legs intact, I see Mathieu van der Poel as the only serious challenge. But it will be difficult for him too.”

Can Mathieu van der Poel win again? – Photo: Cor Vos