So it wasn't a bluff.
This Wednesday morning at the start of Lille, Mathieu van der Poel let it be known that he was not in his best shape and that it would be difficult to count on him.
When you know the strength and explosiveness of the Dutchman, his skill as a cyclocrossman on the cobblestones, we still expected to see him jump on this Lille-Arenberg stage cut out for him.
But from the first cobblestones or almost, "VDP" let go.
The double winner of the Tour of Flanders, 3rd in Paris Roubaix in 2021, finished the day's stage in an anonymous 81st place, 3′48″ from the winner, the Australian Simon Clarke.
"I still didn't have the legs I wanted," he admits honestly.
I had doubts for several days but as the peloton was calm, it wasn't too obvious.
Already the day before, I felt that I had no legs.
The stage which arrived in Calais, with the coast of Cap Blanc Nez 10 km from the finish, could also suit him.
She also smiled at her lifelong rival Wout van Aert.
At that time, you could believe that his team, Alpecin-Deceuninck, was relying more on his sprinter Jasper Philipsen, who has been collecting places of honor since the start of the Tour.
"Even on the Giro, I was not great"
We now know that Mathieu van der Poel simply does not have the jump that made his reputation.
“I liked this stage though.
From the start, I saw that I was unable to project myself forward for the first cobblestone sector,” he explains.
The voracious VDP is usually careful not to run too much.
He waited until he was 26 to play his first Tour last year.
This year, he chained for the first time Giro and Tour de France, but without any race in the program between the two.
“Even on the Giro, I was not great, he also admits.
We didn't realize it because I had taken the pink jersey at the start.
He had also animated the race a lot.
The Tour is not over for all that for the grandson of Raymond Poulidor.
Mathieu van der Poel assured that he wanted to finish the race this year, after leaving it after a week to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
And last year, he got stuck on the first day of the Tour, when Julian Alaphilippe took the yellow jersey in Landernau.
Before reacting superbly the next day by winning with panache at Mûr-de-Bretagne.
Luckily, Thursday's stage, Binche-Longwy, has a very similar finish.
An ideal ground for a resurrection.