WOLLONGONG: Dutch cyclist Mathieu van der Poel was arrested on the eve of Sunday’s elite road race at the world championships after a late-night altercation with noisy neighbours, leaving him “mentally broken”.
The 27-year-old was among the favourites for the rainbow jersey and started the 266.9 kilometre (165.4 mile) slog around the coastal city of Wollongong south of Sydney on Sunday, but retired in the early stages.
Christoph Roodhooft, a director of his Team Alpecin-Deceuninck, said the rider was shattered.
“He didn’t sleep all night and was mentally a bit broken as well,“ Roodhooft told reporters.
“He was expecting a lot of this day (race) and did all he could in the last two months after his bad Tour de France. He had found joy and happiness again in cycling and was hoping to have a nice race today.”
Belgium broadcaster Sporza said it spoke to Van der Poel before the start and he told them: “It’s true, yes.
“There was a small dispute. It was about noisy neighbours and they are quite strict here.
“I wasn’t back in my room until four o’clock (in the morning). That’s certainly not ideal. It’s a disaster, but I can’t change anything any more. I’m trying to make the best of it.”
New South Wales state police confirmed a dispute took place at a hotel in Sydney and that a 27-year-old man was charged with common assault, but would not name those involved.
“About 10.40 pm (Saturday), a man was at a hotel ... when he was allegedly involved in a verbal altercation with two teenage girls -- aged 13 and 14,“ police said in a statement to AFP.
“It’s further alleged the man then pushed both teenagers, with one falling to the ground and the other being pushed into a wall causing a minor graze to her elbow.”
Police were called by hotel management and they “arrested a 27-year-old man shortly after”.
“He was taken to Kogarah Police Station (in Sydney) and charged with two counts of common assault.”
The man was bailed to appear at a Sydney court on Tuesday.
Roodhooft confirmed Van der Poel was taken to a police station “to make an explanation, and that’s what happened”.
“He was asked by a police officer to tell them what happened and sign, then he could go.”
Van der Poel has enjoyed an enviable season with wins at Dwars Door Vlaanderen and the Tour of Flanders, third at Milan-San Remo, fourth at Amstel Gold Race and ninth at Paris-Roubaix.-AFP