At the four-day stage race in the French Departement of Mayenne in north-western France in the first week of June, the 22-year old Dutchman of Team Beobank-Corendon started strong on his STEVENS Comet and became even stronger in the course of the event.
In the 4.5km (2.8mls) prologue in Laval with a steep climb to the finish that spread the field apart, Mathieu van der Poel made his mark by finishing a strong third and winning the White Jersey for the Best Young Rider – just three seconds behind World Tour team pro Johan Le Bon of Francais des Jeux (FDJ). His teammate Philipp Walsleben became 13th with 9 seconds behind.
Before the race the riders of World Tour team of FDJ and Ag2R and Pro Continental teams Direct Energie and Cofidis had been considered favourites. All in all 21 teams with five riders each were at the start line. Among them Team Vorarlberg as well as Beobank-Corendon, both riding STEVENS Comet.
The first loop (French = boucle) went from Renault to Ernée over a 187km (116mls) long, hilly course with 5 KOMs. Beobank-Corendon was very active from the very beginning of the stage: Mathieu van der Poel and Philipp Walsleben tried to escape several times, eventually to no avail.
Frenchman Le Bon used the opportunity to break away from the bunch shortly before the finish. Van der Poel, who had been caught after his last escape, sprinted strongly for the line to finish second ahead of Clement Venturini (Cofidis). In the GC Mathieu advanced to second place behind Le Bon.
White and Green and Yellow
Loops number two also was all but easy: 180km (112mls) and six KOMs – including the finale with a grade of up to 15%. Van der Poel recently had given proof of his climbing prowess at the MTB World Cup in Albstadt where he rode to a strong second place. This ”little mountain top finish” was a confirmation for these abilities. Mathieu won the sprint ahead of Andrea Vendrame (Italy) and Clément Venturini (France). Due to Johan Le Bon only becoming 18th, Mathieu also took over the points best Green Jersey plus the overall leader’s Yellow Jersey.
It was Mathieu’s brother David van der Poel to make the next stage a little less stressful for the team. He was part of a break-away group that dominated the stage most of the time and was caught only shortly before the end. ”David’s presence in the lead group and my team’s great support helped me a lot today,” Mathieu said after the stage, ”in the final climb speed was very high, but when everyone was going for it, I felt that I had good legs.”
Overall Victory and First Place for the Team
On the final day for Beobank-Corendon it was all about defending the one-second lead – and to position Mathieu van der Poel well for the final sprint: ”It was our goal to have the stage end in a bunch sprint. The challenging finish suited me very well. My team’s great work was a huge motivation for me.” Though in the final 500 meters Mathieu had lost his team’s dedicated rear wheel, he managed to sprint for the stage win and overall victory. He won the final stage ahead of Marc Sarreau (FDJ) und Yohann Gene (Direct Energie).
Best German became Marcel Meisen who started to ride his STEVENS Comet for the Continental Team this summer season. The active work of Beobank-Corendon was awarded by winning the overall team ranking. Team Beobank-Corendon’s line-up consisted of Mathieu and David van der Poel, Marcel Meisen, Philipp Walsleben and Gianni Vermeersch.