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Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is so special because "he's just a freak," says one of his road rivals Matteo Trentin (CCC Team).
The Dutch 25-year-old is the favorite for the cyclocross World Championship title this weekend in Dübendorf, Switzerland. Afterwards, he will turn his attention back to the road and the Classics.
"He's just strong," Trentin told FloBikes. "He is super quick and he's versatile. He can win, especially in this uphill kick finish coming from cyclocross and mountain bike, for sure he has something more than we have.
"And he's also a good sprinter too, he can sprint in a bunch and I think the thing that makes him so special is that he's just a freak! There are a few guys like him, you can see even probably Peter Sagan was the same, but I think he's even more versatile than Sagan. He keeps dropping people in cyclocross, dropping people in mountain bike, dropping us in the road races."
Trentin pointed to the road race worlds as an example and said, "he's not unbeatable." Van der Poel made the elite group that eventually went on to win the race but cracked with 12.8km to race.
However, in his first big road year, Van der Poel won Dwars door Vlaanderen, Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, and the Tour of Britain overall while competing and winning in mountain bike and dominating cyclocross. Van der Poel finished fourth in the Tour of Flanders after suffering a serious crash.
"He can win everything," Trentin continued. "You can see he is someone that is not in [our] league. This is another league, like Van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Pogacar. They came in the WorldTour level, just smashing it. No fear of anything, they came in and they deliver results straight away.
"Of course you need to keep up with your name and with your performances. And maybe that's the most important thing, or the most difficult thing because physically maybe they can but mentally it starts to be harder when everyone comes to you, especially you guys, journalists, and say, 'You won here last year, what will you do this year?'"