The Generation Next series is a review of the next big things in cycling. These are the heirs apparent to the throne of the current kings of cycling. Through these articles we will see some on the cusp of greatness, some up and comers and finally some who will be stars in a very specific role. Look for the members of Generation Next to dominate pro cycling for years to come.
Must be 25 or Younger at the start of the 2020 season.
Must be only one from each world nation.
Must have at least one big name race win to their name.
In the Winners Circle
Straight to the point here, Mathieu loves to win, he has absolutely made a habit of this. Having recently started his road racing career he has already mastered three Classics and one of the Monuments. He is the reigning National Dutch champion too, which in itself is one of the bigger races in cycling.
Van Der Poel is going to dominate the one-day races for a long time to come and this is in part due to his ability to hang with anyone across those long hilly races. He will not beat a climber up a mountain or a sprinter in a pure sprint. Mathieu instead will race a day so dominantly that by the line arrives, you have nothing left. How does he do this you proclaim, Cyclocross in the answer.
He is a 6-time national champion, having ridden 6 national championships, a 3 time European champion, with 1 second place in his four races and a 3 time world champion, with a second, a third and a fifth in that time. That means that of the 16 championships he has entered he has won 12 of them. That dominance was especially prevalent in 2019 when he held all three at once.
When it comes to Cyclocross, especially in recent seasons, he just does not know how to lose. Since the 2017 season began, he has entered 20 races over the world cup circuit, he has won 18 of them, with a second and a third in this time, he has not missed a podium in Cyclocross in 3 years.
The Flying Dutchman
Affectionately nicknamed Mathieu Van Der Poel loves to take on a race, and he can never be accused on not going for it. The interesting thing about the Classics and the Monuments versus your stage races in how the breakaways form and Van Der Poel is an absolute master of this.
In stage races the majority of breakaways form of smaller teams or domestique riders, people who might get a chance to win the day but who are at the races in service of somebody else. The breaks in the one-day races however contain the best of the best, the leaders of their teams, so the pace and the quality of these breakaways is fierce. Mathieu Van Der Poel is not only one of the best in this company, but he is also the most feared out of all of them.
His versatility is his biggest asset, something that was on display when he became European Cross-country Mountain Biking champion in 2019. He has won at the elite level in 3 different disciplines of cycling, something few if anybody does. Most cyclists will focus their season one type of racing, Van Der Poel regularly takes on three and wins them all.
Mathieu Van Der Poel is one of the hottest properties in cycling and he takes it all in his stride, the question now becomes, how long does he continue on double duty. As he seems to leave Mountain Biking in the rear view, Van Der Poel is still heavily focused on both Cyclocross and the One-Day races.
If he continues as he is going, he will absolutely become the greatest ever Cyclocross racer, because while he is currently challenged by some excellent riders, he is the gold standard. He forays into Road Racing has been incredibly successful too with 4 massive wins under his belt, the world truly is his oyster.
The ridiculous schedule has not slowed him down yet, but only time will tell if this can catch up with him. It does not seem likely to, however will the call of the Grand Tours change his outlook and make him change what got to where he is today.
What is next for Mathieu Van Der Poel?
Currently racing for Team Alpecin-Fenix Van Der Poel is in an excellent situation. This team focuses heavily on the one-day season which plays into the hands of Mathieu knowing that he can truly focus on the next race, and strategise for one day only. If that changes though and his team want to challenge the Grand Tours, he will be at the top of the list to lead the team.
Mathieu Van Der Poel has all the tools to win the big ones, he is an absolute superstar and one who can revolutionise cycling. He will not slow down his winning ways, he is too good for that to happen, however I expect him to go even further. Only three men in history have won all 5 monuments, Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx and Roger de Vlaeminck. All three of these Belgium riders are legends of the sport and if the cycling Monuments had a Mount Rushmore, they would take the first three spots. Mathieu Van Der Poel will take the fourth spot.
Nobody wins like Mathieu and take in from this writer that not only will he win all 5 Monuments, and he will also win the remaining 4 major Classics he does not currently have in his trophy cabinet. He is primed and ready to become the greatest one-day racer in cycling history, watch this space.