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Mathieu van der Poel stars across the biggest races in cycling, mixing his exceptional power, stamina, versatility and bike handling in road, cyclo-cross and mountain biking. Second best isn’t good enough – and he demands the utmost from his equipment too.

When it comes to his DURA-ACE R9200 groupset, the most important attribute is reliability. “It has to function in many different circumstances: during the flat sprint stages, during Paris-Roubaix, also in the mountains, when you have to shift in the big ring. And it has to be as fast as possible because every second counts,” the Alpecin-Fenix leader says.

The Ronde van Vlaanderen, with its many corners, cobbled roads and changes in speed, presents a test that it passes with flying colours. “I think that’s the most important race for it,” he says. “For example, you have to shift between the inner and big chainring and there’s also a lot of cobbles. The chain is under a lot of force and you have to be able to shift during a full-power effort on cobbles as well.”

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It’s not just about precise shifting, but a matter of the whole ensemble working in harmony together. The DURA-ACE FC-R2900-P power meter is also key to Van der Poel’s preparation. “It’s really important,” he says. “It’s impossible for any rider to do their specific training without one; every pro I know uses one.” 

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Throw in the light, lithe DURA-ACE C50 and C60 wheels, and there is an aesthetic gain to be had on top of the aerodynamics. Because whether you’re tearing up local climbs in town or winning the sport’s biggest Classics, looking fast means riding fast. “I really love the new wheels,” Van der Poel says. “I like the stealth look, plain black with the little Shimano handle on it. It looks really good on the bike.”

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 This is a set-up for those, like Van der Poel, who never compromise. What’s driving him to be the best? “Winning has always been my motivation. That’s what I do it for, why I train. It’s just nice to have the best equipment and try and win some big races.”

Mission already accomplished in 2022, not just with his Ronde van Vlaanderen success, but victories at Dwars door Vlaanderen and in the Giro d’Italia opening time-trial too. “After the problems I had with my back [over winter], it turned out to be a pretty good spring Classics season and also the Giro went quite ok. I can be happy with how the first part of the season went,” he reflects.

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Van der Poel intends to be in the thick of the action at the Tour de France, where he lines up on a custom-painted Canyon Aeroad: “I’m really looking forward to it. The last one was a bit strange because of the change of date due to the pandemic and the Olympics. I really wanted to perform well there, so we decided to leave after ten days. This year, I intend to go to the end as I did in the Giro.”

Alpecin-Fenix are aiming for stage victories and are set to continue punching above their weight as a ProTeam going toe-to-toe with the sport’s leading squads. What’s the secret to their success? “I don’t know if there is one but like other teams, if there’s a good spirit and a fun factor, you all get along really well, I think it makes it easier to perform.”

“The fun factor has also been really important to me and it still is,” Van der Poel adds. “It’s also one of the best ways to keep going. In the cycling world, there’s always a lot of pressures and expectations. You have to be on the bike a long time every day and if you’re doing it without a smile, it’s going to be difficult.”

He can trust that his top-of-the-range Shimano material will never wipe that smile off. “It always works,” Van der Poel says. “And maybe that’s the biggest compliment you can give a groupset.”

“I’ve been riding all my life on DURA-ACE and that means something. It’s something I find pretty perfect.”

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