Mathieu van der Poel demonstrated that he is in fighting form ahead of the fast approaching World Championships road race in Australia with victory at the GP de Wallonie this afternoon.
It was Van der Poel’s first win in several months since winning the opening stage at the Giro d’Italia.
The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider put in a huge effort on the gruelling final climb to the Citadel de Namur which came on the back of closing down a late attack from Tour of Britain winner Gonzalo Serrano (Movistar) and Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier tech).
Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) took second with Serrano in third.
Girmay took the fight to Van der Poel in the race finale but was ultimately forced to settle for the runner up spot behind the flying Dutchman.
After taking the win, Van der Poel was quick to play it down and initially explained that the team’s aim had been to set up Jasper Philipsen for the victory.
Van der Poel said: "I didn't feel very very good, to be honest. I said to Jasper that I'd do the lead-out for him, but I think he didn't feel great either. On the final bend, I just did my sprint, I didn't know if he was still in my wheel, but I still had the strength to go to the line, and it was a nice victory for the team."
The 27-year-old’s victory will be turning heads in both the Slovenian and Belgian camps in Australia with Van der Poel proving that he is in impressive form before travelling to the championships.
Wout Van Aert is widely considered as being the overall favourite for the race along with Tadej Pogačar who stormed to victory at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal last weekend.
Surprisingly the Slovenian was able to dispatch Van Aert with a final powerful sprint for the line in Canada, although Van der Poel’s performance this afternoon will provide the Slovenian team with more thinking to do prior to racing getting underway.
Earlier this year the Dutchman out battled Pogačar to take a second victory in three years at the Tour of Flanders. Van der Poel proved that he was able to outthink the Slovenian on that afternoon in Belgium to record a resounding victory in a one-day setting against the two-time Tour de France champion.
Van der Poel went clear with Pogačar on the Oude Kwaremont climb but after the Slovenian rider hesitated in the run into the finish, the Dutch star was able to outsprint him with ease.
The Dutchman has already scored psychological points in his duels with Pogačar this season and with an impressive win at the GP de Wallonie he will be full of confidence ahead of flying to Australia.