Olympics-Cycling-Van der Poel leaves it late for MTB race

FILE PHOTO: Cycling - Tour de France - Stage 7 - Vierzon to Le Creusot - France - July 2, 2021 Alpecin–Fenix rider Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands in action before crossing the line of stage 7 Pool via REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Mountain bike medal prospect Mathieu van der Poel has departed for the Tokyo Olympics only four days before Monday’s race, confident it is all the time he needs to be ready.

The Dutch rider, who spent the first week of the Tour de France in the yellow jersey but then abandoned the race to concentrate on the Olympics, told NOS television he did not fancy being stuck in a Japanese hotel room waiting for the men’s cross country race.

"The rules are so strict, sitting in a hotel room is not for me,” he said before flying from Amsterdam on Thursday.

"I still have two days to explore the course, that is enough. I haven't ridden it yet, just seen some footage. I also do that at World Cup competitions, so it’s not unusual.”

Van der Poel led the Tour de France for six days on his debut but quit ahead of the ninth stage, saying he wanted to focus on the Olympics.

“It was to get a bit of feeling of being on the mountain bike again. The difference is big between a mountain bike and a road bike," added the 26-year-old.

"Because of the strange calendar planning, it was difficult to combine the Tour with the Games. I didn’t want to regret afterwards that I had stayed too long in the Tour.

“But I really enjoyed it. I watched all of the rest of the tour stages although with some mixed feelings."

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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