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Thijs Zonneveld sees how Mathieu van der Poel still navigates such an 8-year-old: 'I saw how good he was back then' |  Spring classics

Thijs Zonneveld sees how Mathieu van der Poel still navigates such an 8-year-old: ‘I saw how good he was back then’ | Spring classics

CyclingColumnist Thijs Zonneveld saw Mathieu van der Poel and Tadig Bogakar driving through the Flemish hills on Sunday as if it were a playground. “MVDP” still races like that eight-year-old boy, as in 2003’s Rabo Thick Tire Race. Nice visuals.

Nineteen years ago, on a rainy autumn day, the 2003 Rapoo Fat Tire Race was held. A platoon of children hovers around the parking lot of JC Kindergarten. They wear orange helmets and white shirts with fluttering numbers.

One of the youngest boys, with jersey number 29, is already topping the list after one round. His back is arched, swaying slightly. The speaker shouts his name out, but this is not necessary. Although the boy in the video is only eight years old: you recognize his style among the thousands.

You can already see how good it is. How fast he flies through corners, how easy he is to win, and how he raises his hands at the finish line as if he’s done it a thousand times. But also how much fun he has. It’s a family outing. Mom and Dad are with them, his grandmother puts his coat on him because otherwise he will catch a cold. Soon they will eat french fries. And maybe ice cream.

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The boy from the video is now 27 years old. Last Sunday, he was at the start of the Tour of Flanders. His legs are a little thicker and his shirt is narrower. And behind the crushing barriers, she’s busier than she was then. But other than that, not much has changed. Matthew van der Poel still cycles like that 8-year-old, and in the morning, before starting, he says he’s looking forward to it. And that he hopes that they will reach the mountains soon so that he will not get bored.

He’s not the only kid at first. Cycling has been overtaken by boys in recent years. By the guys who drive every race as if it were a fat tire race: from the first lap with all their might. In the not-too-distant past, tour winners would sit on a mountain in April and train like monks; Today, Tadej Pogacar is eager to compete in a springtime classic never seen before. He and Van der Poel, driving through the Flemish hills on Sunday as if it were a playground. Go up as fast as possible on each hill and laugh at the cobblestones.

Pogi was the most powerful, and the VDP was the fastest. He won the race with his back bent, swaying slightly. Then he stopped to kiss his girlfriend. He spoke to all the cameras, got his knee on the Strava to see if he had any KOMs, and then ate a hamburger. He said he enjoyed himself.

And so are we, Matthew, and so are we.

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