Mathieu van der Poel: What Really Happened?

One of the more bizarre events at the World Champs in Australia was pre-race favourite Mathieu van der Poel's brush with the law.

By Molly Hurford |

Struggling to keep up with what the heck is going on with Mathieu van der Poel and his arrest in Wollongong, Australia the night before World Championships? (Or maybe you’re reading that sentence for the first time and are completely baffled how the multi-time World Champion and Olympian ended up in the slammer for assault?)

Your confusion is understandable, because frankly, the situation involving a game of tok-tokkie (or the Australian version, anyway) gone horribly wrong is pretty messy.

Here, we’re going to attempt to create a timeline that recounts the facts as we know them, and we’ll add to it as the situation unfolds in coming weeks.

Wednesday, September 21

Road Worlds is already dramatic for the Dutch team as van der Poel’s team time trial goes awry thanks to a rough crash for Annemiek Van Vleuten. This has nothing to do with the assault charges filed later, but it’s worth noting that the Dutch athletes were already under a lot of stress, since they were considered top contenders for the win. (Side note, Van Vleuten did go on to win the gold medal in the women’s road race, despite her injuries from the crash.)

Saturday, September 24

9 PM: Two young teens begin a game of tok-tokkie (the ‘fun’ prank where you knock on a door or ring a doorbell and run away) on van der Poel’s hotel room door. He’s staying on a different floor than the rest of the Dutch team, with his girlfriend, partially due to a slight cold and not wanting to get his teammates sick.

10:40 PM: van der Poel, fed up with the noise, runs from his room to confront the girls. Court documents and video footage show a man in his underwear chasing them down the hall. He admits to grabbing one of the girls’ arms and yelling at them, though court documents suggest that he knocked one down and pushed one into a wall. Recordings revealed a back-and-forth with the mother, who was in the room next to the girls’. She tells him she’s calling the police, and he tells her that she should.

VeloNews released a statement from Australian police around the incident: “Around 10:40 p.m., a man was involved in a verbal altercation with two teenage girls, ages 13 and 14. He allegedly pushed both girls, pushing one on fell and the other hit a wall, chafing her elbow. The hotel management was notified and called the police. Police arrested the 27-year-old man shortly after.”

(Note: Reports are mixed as to who phoned the police. Some say hotel staff, others say the mother, others say one of the girls did.)

Sunday, September 25

12 AM (roughly): Police are called, van der Poel is placed under arrest and brought to a local police station in Wollongong.

4 AM: van der Poel is released from prison, though his passport is held until he appears in court. The court date is set for Tuesday.

10 AM: van der Poel gives a pre-race interview mentioning the situation, telling Sporza: “It’s true, yes. There was a small dispute. It was about noisy neighbours and they are quite strict here… I went to bed early and many children in the hallway of my room found it necessary to knock on the door continuously… After a few times I was done with it. I didn’t ask so nicely to stop. Then the police were called and I was taken… That’s certainly not ideal. It’s a disaster, but I can’t change anything anymore. I’m trying to make the best of it. It is on little sleep that I will race, hopefully on adrenaline. It was certainly not fun. It is what it is, I have to deal with it.”

10:15 AM: The road race begins. Van der Poel abandons at 34 kilometres into the race

Afternoon: Alpecin-Deceuninck team manager Christoph Roodhooft defended his actions, saying: “His World Cup [sic] is being thwarted in a stupid way. There were no parents with those children. Mathieu was tired of it at 00.00 and then he flew out of bed.”

However, The Netherlands’ team management was not as forgiving: “Mathieu comes up with it when the damage has already been done. If we know, we’ll arrange something,” national coach Koos Moerenhout stated. (Note that this is a translation of his initial statement.)

Monday, September 26

Van der Poel’s court date was expedited since his flight home was scheduled for Tuesday. He was fined $1500 AUS (R17 500) for the assault charges against the two girls, and his passport was returned. He is also not allowed to return to Australia for three years.

Court documents state that “van der Poel grabbed a 14-year-old by both of her arms, squeezing them and pushing her against a wall while yelling at her. She a carpet burn graze to her right elbow and redness to her left forearm.”

He was not given an allowance for the fact that this incident happened just ahead of World Championships, which his lawyer Michael Bowe argued should have been considered a mitigating circumstance.

His lawyer stated that they plan to appeal the case, telling Reuters, “Mathieu agreed with some of those allegations. On discussing it was agreed he should plead guilty. In Australia, if you plead guilty you can walk away with no conviction… but it was not the case here.”

His team also released a full statement:

“We have taken note of the events that took place in Wollongong in the past 48 hours. Needless to mention everyone loses here, and we can only regret that. Initially, our focus was on providing legal assistance on site and on helping Mathieu van der Poel to return home quickly.”

“Now that has happened, we want to get a clear picture of the course of events, through inspection of the complete file we don’t have the court documents yet) and a conversation with Mathieu van der Poel and those involved at Team NL. Based on this, we will determine which further steps to take.

“We would like to emphasise that respect for others, inside and outside the peloton, is and always has been a core value of Alpecin-Deceuninck. That is why we want to follow up on this in an appropriate way. Only then will team Alpecin-Deceuninck and Mathieu van der Poel communicate about this again.”

Tuesday, September 27

Van der Poel returned home, flying into the Brussels airport. Upon landing, he made a brief statement to the awaiting press. “I should have informed the reception or someone else anyway,” he said. “But it was getting late and I just wanted to sleep. I thought I could solve it myself, because in the end it turned out completely wrong. Unfortunately I can’t change it anymore.”

Wednesday, September 28

The father of one of the teen girls in the incident gives interview, photos and videos to tabloid The Daily Mail Australia.

The Daily Mail also noted a detail that hadn’t come out around the incident: That van der Poel’s girlfriend, Roxanne Bertels, had actually asked the girls to stop their ‘game’ before van der Poel chased them down the hall.

“He’s got every right to get angry, but not to do what he did… We went to the hospital on Sunday and I’m taking her to the psychologist because she’s scared,” the father, identified as only John, told The Daily Mail. “She’s worried she’s in trouble and has done something wrong because some people are blaming her and me, saying it was the girls’ fault and I’m a bad parent, but it was the school holidays – what kids at that age are going to bed at nine o’clock?”

(The other father interviewed admitted that the girls shouldn’t have been playing that ‘game,’ saying they were “a bit naughty,’ but says van der Poel should be in more legal trouble than he is.)

Where are we now?

Waiting to see where the appeal will go, and watching the case play out in the court of public opinion. The Dutch Federation and van der Poel’s team have not made any new statements, nor has van der Poel. We’ll continue to update this story as more info emerges.

READ MORE ON: cycling news Matthieu van der Poel news van der poel

Copyright © 2024 Hearst