Alpecin-Fenix team manager Christoph Roodhooft has said that the Belgian team led by Mathieu van der Poel will go to the Tour de France with its focus very much on the race’s opening week.
Speaking at the ongoing Étoile de Bessèges, which comes to a conclusion on Sunday afternoon, Roodhooft said that their first Tour appearance will be a big step for the team.
“We’ll see how it goes in the first week. It’s a big adventure for all of us,” he told Cyclingnews. “We’ll go into the race focussed just on the first week, and then we’ll see what happens after that.
“We don’t have the same level of team as Jumbo-Visma so for us it will be a completely different approach. We’ll pick the days that we think will particularly suit us before the Tour, but we won’t go there with any ambitions for the general classification.”
Like his team, who qualified for WorldTour invites after topping the Europe Tour rankings in 2020, Van der Poel is also set to race at the Tour for the first time. Expectations will be high, not only as a result of his prestigious road victories including last year’s Tour of Flanders, but also thanks to his long-standing rivalry with Wout van Aert, who has won three stages in his two Tour outings.
“Wout Van Aert surprised everybody last year, so of course it’s perhaps natural that we’ll expect Mathieu to deliver something, but maybe it won’t be the same,” said Roodhooft. “I think that Wout van Aert has got a better time trial in his legs, but we shall see. Everything is possible.”
The Alpecin boss added that the Belgian team will be built completely around its Dutch leader. The opening week of the Tour includes with a hilly day in Brittany, a hilltop finish on Mûr-de-Bretagne, plus two sprint stages, each of which should be well-suited to Van der Poel.
“At the top level, there are lot of teams built around riders like Peter Sagan, teams where it does all depend to a large extent on one or perhaps two guys who can make a difference. I think that’s quite normal,” said Roodhooft.
Roodhooft confirmed that Van der Poel will make his 2021 debut on the road at the UAE Tour later this month.
“From there his focus will be on Flanders and Roubaix,” he said. “He’s shown already what he can do, so he’ll go first for the spring Classics, then switch to mountain biking, and then he’ll focus on the Tour de France, and we’ll see how it goes,” said the Alpecin manager, who added that the team also had another key objective to focus on.
“At the same time, we also want to win the Europe Tour again, so that we can keep our place in the biggest races. The whole team will have to contribute to that, because that’s not something that Mathieu can do his own, although he will hopefully play his part. But that’s a key goal for the team too.”