feet on the Grande Boucle, head to Tokyo

Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), during the seventh stage of the Tour de France, between Vierzon (Cher) and Le Creusot (Saône-et-Loire), on July 2. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP

The Tour started a week ago and, this Friday July 2, at the finish of the seventh stage at Le Creusot (Saône-et-Loire), not only Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is still in the peloton, but it is also always in yellow.

The big start had not yet been given in Brest that the Dutch prodigy had to raise doubts at a press conference: does he plan to leave the Grande Boucle prematurely? Because the participation of Raymond Poulidor’s grandson is one of the events of this edition and it would have been a shame if it ended prematurely.

Above all, if VDP has had to reassure many times about his intentions, it is because this year, like many of his comrades in the peloton, he already has an eye on Japan. “Looking ahead to the Olympics, I don’t know how many stages I will be doing, he explained to reporters. But it would be nice to finish my first Tour de France. “

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The 26-year-old cyclist is aiming for a gold medal in mountain biking at the Tokyo Olympics, which opens on July 23. Or five days after the arrival of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées. And this deadline remains, by its own admission, “Its main objective” of the year. To the point besides that the descendant of “Poupou” would have, for a time, considered drying the Grande Boucle … before being reframed by his training.

“I fully understand the business interests of our sponsors and it’s the team that pays my salary at the end of the month. You have to know how to put water in your wine from time to time, had he justified, at the beginning of February 2021, to the Dutch magazine Wieler Revue. And it is of course not a punishment to have to participate in the Tour. “

“The Tour is more important”

“VDP” is not alone in this dilemma. Many of the runners who took the big start on June 26 will line up on July 24 in the 230-kilometer road race from western Tokyo to the foothills of Mount Fuji.

This is particularly the case of his “best enemy”, Wout van Aert, whose team Jumbo-Visma hopes to win this edition of the Tour, a year after the defeat of its leader, the Slovenian Primoz Roglic, on the eve of the arrival. “For me, the two competitions [le Tour de France et les JO] are at the same level. But, for the team, I think the Tour is more important ”, he explained to World, mid-June, on the sidelines of a preparation course in Tignes (Savoie).

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