Mathieu van der Poel in Tour de France cobblestone no-show: ‘I’m a shadow of myself’

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Where was Mathieu van der Poel on the cobblestones of the Tour de France on Wednesday?

It’s the story that went down on a stage with more headlines than even the largest broadsheet newspaper could handle.

A dry, dusty day in the Roubaix region saw Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Dutch dynamo swing off their backs and struggle for form.

“It’s not positive. Instead of a better day, today was worse. I’m currently a shadow of myself and that’s frustrating. I have no idea what it’s about. I’m not really ready to burn right now,” said Van der Poel Wielerlflits after the stage.

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Van der Poel disappeared after stomping through Friday’s Copenhagen time trial with his signature rigor.

Work for sprinter Jasper Philipsen on the Danish road stages gave way to what he described as a rapid descent when the race reached France.

Van der Poel was far from the starting line-up as arch-rivals Wout van Aert raged for the yellow jersey victory in Calais on Tuesday.

Crossing the finish line almost four minutes behind the leaders at Porte du Hainaut at the end of stage five on Wednesday confirmed that Van der Poel doesn’t have the legs of dynamite that carried him to two top 10 finishes from Paris-Roubaix and a win have led at the Tour of Flanders.

“I didn’t really notice it during the stages in Denmark, but I did notice that I wasn’t riding with excess. When they start fast, that’s really at the limit for me,” said Van der Poel Wielerflits after his cobblestone ambitions collapsed on Wednesday.

Dirty faces, missing legs for MvdP on the cobbled stage of the tour. (Photo: Getty Images)

After three bombastic weeks of stage wins, pink clothing and haymaking in the mountains at the Giro d’Italia in May, Van der Poel needed less than five weeks to recover in time for the Tour.

“It was good at the Giro d’Italia, but not outstanding either. I don’t know… The lead up to the tour wasn’t very good either, except for the last week before the tour. That was positive, but it wasn’t the case before,” he said.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve reached the level I’m aiming for. The only perspective now is to move on and hope that later it will be better.”

An in-form Van der Poel would normally top a bookmaker’s bet slip for Thursday’s Kicking Hilltop finish at Longwy in Stage 6.

Van der Poel wouldn’t fight back.

“Since the time trial, I no longer have the legs that I wanted,” regretted Van der Poel. “I hope it comes, otherwise it will be a long tour.”