State of the nation: Netherlands men’s team analysis for 2021 World Championships
Ahead of 2021 UCI Road World Championships Elite road races, Cyclingnews takes a look at key teams.
We looked at the men’s teams of the United States, Britain and Australia with the women’s teams of Britain the United States and Australia. Now is the time to watch one of the male favorites, the Netherlands.
The Dutch may be the fourth most successful nation when it comes to winning the elite men’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships with seven rainbow jerseys, but their record in the past 30 years was a pale imitation of a team that won three times in the 1970s. You have to go back to 1985 to find their last victory thanks to Joop Zoetemelk, while Leon van Bon was their last medalist in 1997.
Much of the 1990s was a tough one due to the rivalry between the TVM and Rabobank contingents, but to be fair the last two generations of Dutch runners have been without a real star for a day with people like Michael. Boogerd and Tom Dumoulin who made admirable efforts but ultimately futile medal pursuits, and while their female counterparts have become a dominant force on the Worlds stage, their male colleagues have resigned themselves to courageous roles as well.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) almost changed the storyline in 2019 when he was part of the all-important winning break, but the lights went out in the final stages and he was left to the team’s servants. to try to save a result.
There is really only one starting point – Mathieu van der Poel at the forefront of the ambitions of the Dutch team. Aside from back issues, he’s the only runner on the already strong outfit that can light up the run, and while he’s not in great shape with doubts about his durability due to his lack of run, it remains the asset of the team.
A win at Antwerp Port Epic earlier this month will have boosted Van der Poel’s confidence, and if he’s fit, Flanders’ course is almost perfect for the 26-year-old’s skills. With Julian Alaphilippe (France), Tom Pidcock (United Kingdom) and Wout van Aert (Belgium), the Dutch rider can face the race from afar and stretch the opposing lines to the breaking point but the lack of time on the road since the Tour de France is a real concern.
His natural talent aside, Van der Poel has not run more than 250 kilometers in a single day since the Tour of Flanders, and in the last hour of the Worlds race which can be crucial. That said, Van der Poel wouldn’t show up if he thought his recent injury issues were hurting his overall hopes of winning the race,
Pound for pound, Bauke Mollema is one of the most underrated men’s WorldTour runners and arguably the best Trek-Segafredo runner since Fabian Cancellara hung up his wheels. The Dutchman’s victories at Il Lombardia, San Sebastian, three Grand Tour stages and his overall consistency are testament to his overall talents, and although he is approaching his 35th birthday and recently suffered a heavy crash in Luxembourg, he is still a competitive force. The course in Flanders is not exactly its natural habitat, but the versatile nature of Mollema gives extra depth and a different dimension to the Dutch brigade.
Dylan van Baarle, another runner who recently crashed and saw his build-up affected, won a fine edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen earlier in the year, but there is a lingering feeling the 29-year-old didn’t still not reached its absolute peak. Part of this could be due to his Ineos environment, where he has been asked to reconcile his one-day ambitions with his Grand Tour duties, but in theory he should be Van der Poel’s right-hand man in the later stages of elite racing. Van Baarle is also a strong contender to infiltrate the race’s key penultimate move – the one that tends to draw favorites – and his overall resistance could be key if Van der Poel has to shoulder the burden of continuing the moves.
Danny van Poppel has better endurance than many believe and his sprint record is solid rather than spectacular. However, its mere presence in the roster gives the Dutch team another level and another tactic to play on. There are certainly faster riders in the race, but if Van Poppel takes a break or jumps onto the right wheel he could alter the reaction of Van der Poel’s rivals. If there is no sprint, then Van Poppel will ride like a key servant, and his experience will be essential to position himself and shelter himself from the conditions.
Teunissen has a lot of potential, and while we probably won’t see much action from Eenkhoorn, Riesebeek or Langeveld, they are strong team members who are essential to Van der Poel’s chances.
There are few or no weak links within the Dutch team. There are legitimate questions about Van der Poel’s form given his back injury issues, but assuming he lines up at the starting line near his best, then he will play a part in the outcome of the race. The Dutchman knows how to manage the climbs offered on the hard-hitting Flandrien course, while his natural desire to break the race – even from afar – should cancel out many of his opponents. The rest of the squad is built around Van der Poel but Mollema offers something different. Overall, they are a solid team with one of the main favorites for the Rainbow Shirt.
The preparation has been far from ideal and if Van der Poel is not on the boil it is hard to see where the Dutch can find an alternative. Few teams would have a ready-made replacement for a driver as complete as Van der Poel, and although Van Baarle and Mollema have class in abundance, they are not top favorites.
The view of the Netherlands
If you look at the men’s team, you have to start with their terrible luck in recent months. If you look at Van der Poel, he had a back injury and his preparation is far from perfect. That’s right, you never know with him, and if you look at his career, there are plenty of times he’s made the impossible possible. He can always surprise us but his journey to the Worlds was bumpy compared to many of his rivals. Van der Poel will however be the absolute leader. Van Baarle crashed in the Vuelta and injured his hip, then Mollema had this terrible crash on the Tour du Luxembourg. Normally Tom Dumoulin would be there but his season is over due to a broken wrist, and finally, with Teunissen, we haven’t seen him at this best level since 2019.
This means that you can’t really count the Dutch team among the favorites, as they are behind teams like France, Belgium, Italy and Slovenia. For me, the Dutch are outsiders but Van der Poel always gives you hope.
Raymond Kerckhoffs, wielerflits