Updated 27th November 2019

What happened to Mathieu Van Der Poel at the World road Championships in Yorkshire?. Heres some possibility of what may have happened to cause his dramatic drop in energy.

He started the winning move with around 30 kilometres to the finish. Then with about 13kms to go he was dramatically dropped.

Here’s some of his own explanation of what happened to him from an article in cycling news 

“I don’t know what happened,” Van der Poel said post-race outside the Dutch team bus.

“All of sudden I had no strength anymore in my legs. I don’t think that I made any mistakes today. I was in the right group but all of a sudden the tank was empty. That’s not happened before but this is also the first time that I’ve raced this distance in the rain. It was raining all day, it was very cold and it was a very hard race.”

“It’s a world championship that I’ll remember for a long time. Every rider who rode it will remember it for a long time. I was in a good group and I did everything right but all of a sudden I had nothing more,” he said of the conditions and his waning strength.

” I felt good, it was really good and then all of a sudden it was all gone. When I let the group go I was really dizzy and empty but in the last few kilometres, I felt good again. It was really strange.” Cycling News


Van Der Poel said “I was really Dizzy and empty”. This is a great description of hypoglycaemia (low sugar levels)  Most cyclists will recognise those symptoms and major stage races have been lost from the same thing happening to top riders.

Symptoms Notice the symptoms of being dizzy and empty. This is part of the description of Hypoglycemia by the Mayo clinic  

That article describes Hypoglycemia in regard to Diabetes but some of the symptoms are the same as when a cyclist runs out of energy as Van Der Poel did on Sunday.

Wet and cold 260 kms

Van Der Poel mentions how he has not ridden that distance before. The weather was also wet and cold which would have the effect of burning more energy to keep warm.

He was also riding very hard in the Breakaway group and possibly overlooked eating and drinking for a while. He also mentions starting to think about winning. This could have distracted him from eating and drinking for a while as well.

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly in his Eurosport commentary often mentions the importance of eating and drinking during the long races , particularly on cold wet days.

Empty tank

So, to put it simply Van Der Poels tank really was completely empty of Glycogen.

Glycogen is a form of energy derived from carbohydrates that is stored in muscles and liver and is the main source of energy for the brain.

Hence most likely the reason for Van Der Poel feeling dizzy when the tank was completely emptied.

He also mentions how he seemed to have recovered again before the finish. So, had he had some sugars in gels or drinks that helped him recover?

How to avoid Hypoglycaemia

Q2  How should I fuel for a race or sportive?

Heres a section of a Q and A Session with Crionna Tobin of Fuel and Perform  “ The longer the race the more fuel you need to maintain intensity on the bike for the duration.

Therefore, your main food focus should be around increasing your carbohydrate intake before and during the race.

Increase your carbohydrate intake before the race by adding an extra portion (1-2 Tbsp.) of carbohydrate foods (oats, pasta, rice, potatoes, bread) to each main meal” .

See full article here at Question two from Crionna Tobin of Fuel and Perform article  

Remember if this can happen to a wonderful cyclist like Mathew Van Der Poel it can surely happen to you. So learn about it. Get qualified advice for yourself or your club and minimise it in the future

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