The arrest of Matthew van der Poel is not only a strange incident KNWU in the World Cup


How did it happen that the Dutch World Cup favorite was spending the night before a title fight in a police dungeon? The story seems so implausible that even his teammates thought Matthew van der Poel was joking when he informed them of his arrest just before the start. Who is to blame for this strange accident?

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World Championships in Australia far away. Good for global cycling. Good for the UCI war treasury, but a tragedy for the treasurers of the National Cycling Associations. It is known from the Dutch cycling federation KNWU that the financial situation has been dire in recent years. Feel free to call it the result of many years of mismanagement of the Federation.

according to Eurosport The costs of this trip for KNWU amounted to about two hundred thousand euros. Half of that had to be paid to the hotel: the Novotel at Grand Parade in Brighton-le-Sands, south of Sydney at the airport. An hour and a half drive from the trail in Wollongong.

The Australians at the site thought it strange for the Dutch national team to sit so far off the World Cup track. Especially because the booking was made on December 10 last year and there were still plenty of alternatives at the time. Eileen van Dijk and Animek van Vleuten also thought this was a long way off in terms of a world title fight against the chronometer. They booked an apartment near Wollongong in the five days leading up to the World Cup demo and didn’t report to the Orange Hotel in Sydney on Sunday evening.

Matthew van der Poel also arrived on Sunday. He initially wanted to drive the Primus Classic after Saturday’s GP of Wallonia, so he booked the trip to the other side of the world just after that race in the evening. In the end, he didn’t race this race, but he did stick to his travel schedule. To make the “late” flight as smooth as possible, he even paid for an upgrade to first class (a ticket is usually around 20,000 euros). By itself, that trip a week before the world title fight shouldn’t be a problem. From a jet lag standpoint, a seven-day stay is enough for a top athlete to get used to the eight-hour time difference.

catch a cold
At the hotel, Van der Poel is assigned to a room with Jan Maas. Because he arrived a little cold, national team coach Cuz Morinhout asked if he could sleep in a room with his girlfriend Roxanne. In this way, he was also better able to adapt to the time difference by going to bed earlier than his teammates who had been camping in “Down Under” for some time. Morinhout had no problem with this. This allowed him to prevent more riders of his choosing from catching a cold.

Matthew van der Poel disappears from the track like a thief in the night – Photo: Cor Vos

With KNWU not renting any private lanes at the grand airport hotel, it’s no surprise that the Dutch captain is now on a different floor than most of the other riders. It is not at all strange that there are other people in the same lane in a cyclist hotel. Even in the 2020 Corona Tour, when the team’s bubbles were still under strict scrutiny, this was the case. At the time, for example, I slept in two rooms at the Novotel in Voreppe next to later winner Tadej Pogacar.

Where Van der Poel immediately drives a good mixed relay TTT, he also stays in his hotel room with his girlfriend for the following days towards a road race. We’re now living in 2022 and women around the race are no longer such an outlandish phenomenon as they were in the years when Peter Post, Lum Driessens and Jan Ras, among others, ruled with a heavy hand. They summoned the women at the Poison Racing Hotel for their drivers.

On the other hand, you might be wondering if it enhances the group’s operation if the jockey’s girlfriend also stays in the same hotel during the World Cup. Suppose all 8 riders from a national select group will bring their wives/girlfriends at the hotel and sleep in the room with them. You can never form a unit this way.

You could point out that this preferential treatment of the great champions is an evolution in cycling. That they have special privileges. But these champions actually injure themselves when they build half a bond with their teammates.

This certainly has significance within a national choice. After all, Van der Poel is only on the road with these seven for a few days this year, and thus he hardly knows most of his fellow oranges. So, it can’t be that you have to split the little time available for the World Cup between your team and your girlfriend. In the days leading up to the World Cup, you have to invest in your national team and realize that there are always special laws in such a tournament. As a leader, you will benefit most when the unit is formed.

Think also of last year’s Olympics, when van der Poel arrived much later than his teammates for the mountain bike race in Tokyo. He wasn’t aware at the time that the “landing” plate had been removed during competition day, unlike during training. The national coach and his teammates later indicated that they had discussed this at length at the table. Apparently, “MVDP” was somewhere else on his mind at the time than a conversation with his colleagues.

Photo: Cor Vos

It is of course very annoying that there is noise in the hotel corridor at 10:30 in the evening. It’s quite understandable that Van der Poel was angry because these kids (girls aged 13-14) also started talking by knocking on his door. It’s a logical reaction that, in his own words, he would have gotten “not very friendly stories” from both. In retrospect, it is very easy to say that he should have called someone from KNWU or the hotel front desk. Of course that was the most logical thing to do.

The big question remains what happened in that corridor on the ninth floor. Van der Poel claims it was nothing but a quarrel or a scolding. If that’s all that happened, he can’t be blamed. However, the police report stated that the two girls indicated that he pushed them. One of the girls was said to have fallen to the ground, while the other had hit a wall and had a scrape in her elbow. Anyway, that was reason enough for the girls (or their parents) to alert the hotel management and the police.

If he pressed, Van der Poel made a mistake. There is no doubt about that. However, for now, it’s van der Poel’s word against the two girls’ word. It may seem an exaggeration that he was kept in a cell until 4 am in the Gujarat police station because of this incident. But in Australia they take these statements very seriously. Especially when young girls come forward with this complaint. If there was a chance that the two girls had already been harassed, such an incident is taken seriously. Especially since violence against young women in Australia has been exposed to the magnifying glass in recent years.

Van der Poel, the national team coach, warned Kos Morenhaut from his hotel room at 10.45pm after the accident. He immediately went to the captain’s room, but the damage had already been done by then. Morenhout then offered to escort him to the police station, but a joint decision was made that his team manager Christoph Roodhoft of Alpecin-Deceuninck (who stayed at another hotel) and his girlfriend Roxanne would help him there. Oddly enough, however, the National Union of Women’s Prophets sent no one from its delegation. After all, Van der Paul falls under the responsibility of the Dutch Federation during the World Cup period. Chef de Mission Jan van Veen was the right person for this, but he himself stated that he was only informed of the incident in the morning.

It is understood that Moerenhout then decides not to inform the other riders/coaches of his team until as late as possible. That way, during breakfast and during the trip back to the start in Helensburg, the focus can still be on the race. After all, we’re still talking about the World Cup, the most important one-day race of the year. In the end, it was Van der Poel himself who informed his camper mates about his nightly “adventure” just before the start.

Kos Morrenhout – Photo: Cor Vos

KNWU’s role
There are more questions about the role of chef Jan van Veen. He is responsible for organizing the entire group during the World Cup. And in the organization specifically, the KNWU, as usual, dropped several stitches this week. The events around young women at the World Cup alone are unprecedented.

The parents of these 17 and 18-year-old girls had to ring the bell with the KNU that their kids had to check-in at the airport for a long flight unaccompanied by someone from KNU. In the end, the association decided to send someone to Schiphol. A good thing too, because it turns out that at least nine bikes were not paid for for the long ride. Three elite women were eventually tasked with keeping an eye on these young girls during the flight.

In Australia, the youngsters, who had not yet experienced the time, spent an hour and a half in the car for training in Wollongong. Upon arrival, it was discovered that the guild guides had forgotten their bikes at the hotel…

And in the race, the young women were not helped by their national coach Loes Gunnewijk because she did not have the time. This task was left to Peter Zeigerfeld, who will be employed by the Croatian National Federation of Women until 2020, who happens to be in Down Under because he has a family living there.

These incidents are surprising. Anyone who’s been on the road with KNWU in recent years, however, knows otherwise. Next month, former politician Wouter Boss will take over the presidency of the Cycling Federation for another year. In the conversations he had with various stakeholders regarding his election, he promised to show his strong hand. But so far, Bos has excelled at invisibility. And so the National Women’s Union continues to struggle. And the sum of all embarrassing incidents grows larger.

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