Olympic gold after the yellow jersey of the Tour de France is the expected scenario for Mathieu van der Poel. Leader of the Grande Boucle in the first week after his victory at Mûr-de-Bretagne, Raymond Poulidor’s grandson abandoned the Tour after losing his tunic on the morning of the 9th stage towards Tignes. A hasty start, and expected, since “MVDP” already had another goal in mind after this successful start to the Tour: Olympic gold in cross-country mountain biking.
As versatile as he is insatiable, the Dutch phenomenon is a scarecrow at the start of the Olympic race. But the rest of the peloton should not be underestimated, including the two Frenchmen Jordan Sarrou, reigning world champion, and Victor Koretzky, second in the 2021 World Cup standings.
Honor to the rainbow jersey first, that of Jordan Sarrou, crowned world champion to everyone’s surprise last October in Austria. “He will inevitably have the pressure, because you are always expected more when you have the status of world champion. You have to keep your rank and honor this jersey”, recalls Julien Absalon, who experienced the same situation in 2008 in Beijing, before going for gold. Bis repeated thirteen years later for Sarrou? Possible, but not sure. The Frenchman also experienced a little fright on Saturday when he fell during a reconnaissance on the Izu circuit.
“Although he is world champion, Jordan Sarrou is not the big favorite of the event because he has not won an international race this year, although he is very consistent. serious outsider for the podium. “Julien absalon
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If this does not pass for the tricolor world champion, another French could win the Olympic title: Victor Koretzky. Currently second in the 2021 Cross-Country Mountain Bike World Cup, and tenth at the Rio Games in 2016, the 26-year-old Biterrois arrives in Tokyo with confidence. He notably removed a World Cup round in early May, ahead of Switzerland’s Nino Schurter, but also Mathieu van der Poel, 7th that day. Less consistent than Sarrou, Koretzky is nonetheless capable of throwing things up.
“Victor has proven that he can win. He is one of the best technicians on the circuit, a very good driver who can handle this extreme Tokyo circuit well. He has a lot of weapons to perform.”Julien absalon
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And if the two Frenchmen involved have a real chance of securing the podium, without being ultra-favorites as Loana Lecomte and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot will be on Tuesday, it is anything but a coincidence. The Hexagon is indeed a land of cross-country, as evidenced by the five Tricolores members of the world top 10, including the French champion Maxime Marotte. “We can only take 2 runners to the Olympics, but in France we had 5 capable of playing for the medal in Tokyo”, summarizes Julien Absalon, who explains this density by the ideal playground offered by the French massifs, as well as the in-depth work of the training clubs.
But the French will only be two in the peloton of 42 riders at the start of the Olympic race, and will face enormous competition, embodied by the versatile Mathieu van der Poel and Thomas Pidcock, who shine as much in the mud as on the road. “These are phenomena of world cycling, they are capable of anything, to impose themselves on all disciplines, Julien Absalon is wary. Especially since van der Poel has announced for several years his goal to be Olympic champion, even more than to be yellow jersey on the Tour so we can expect to see him ahead “.
But the Dutch genius has only appeared two rounds of the MTB World Cup this season, amid his crowded schedule between cyclocross and road racing. “The start is given according to the classification at the World Cup, but at the Olympics it is less problematic because there are only 42 riders. So that won’t handicap him too much “, put Julien Absalon into perspective.
“If he had finished the Tour, it would have been physically complicated. But by stopping him in the first week, he gave himself the time to prepare well for the Olympics. His week on the Tour will surely give him more Powerful.”Julien absalon
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However, it remains to find his automatisms, but here again, van der Poel does nothing like no one else, smiles Absalon, impressed. “In mountain biking, the key is the pedal stroke, we aim for a round pedaling, specific to this discipline, while on the road we ride without asking any questions on smooth ground. Normally it takes a few days to get used to it again. But not for him, he has such ease … “
The undisputed star of the race, Mathieu van der Poel could therefore do well after his week in yellow on the roads of the Tour. Poulidor’s grandson has anyway already announced that he will continue mountain biking after the Games, medal or not, at least until Paris 2024.