Star cyclist Mathieu van der Poel will face court in Sydney on Tuesday after he was arrested over an alleged late-night altercation with two teenage girls.
The Dutch star was left “mentally broken”, his team said on Sunday, after being charged with two counts of common assault and was taken to a police station just hours before the men’s road race at the world championships in Wollongong.
The 27-year-old is reported to have confronted a group of teenagers after they repeatedly knocked on his door in an apparent prank.
Van der Poel, who has won to stage on the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, has been left “shattered” according to his Team Alpecin-Deceuninck boss Christoph Roodhooft.
“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 neighbors 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.
“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.”
He had been among the favorites for the rainbow jersey and started the 267km slog around Wollongong, but inexplicably retired an hour into the race.
But his trip to Australia unraveled following the alleged altercation, which is reported to have occurred at the Grand Parade Brighton-Le-Sands in Sydney.
He has denied allegations he pushed the children involved.
A statement from the New South Wales Police said: “About 10.40pm (Saturday 24 September 2022), a man was at a hotel on The Grand Parade, Brighton-Le-Sands, when he was allegedly involved in a verbal altercation with two teenage girls girls – aged 13 and 14.
“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. Hotel management were notified of the incident who then called police. Officers from St George Police Area Command attended and arrested a 27-year-old man shortly after.
“He was taken to Kogarah Police Station and charged with two counts of common assault. He was granted conditional bail to appear at Sutherland Local Court on Tuesday 27 September 2022.”
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.”
The head of Netherlands cycling governance body KNWU has said van der Poel should not have attempted to “solve” the problem by himself.
“We are all in a hotel and there is noise in one particular department,” he said, according to sporza.
“Van der Poel tried to solve it himself. That should have been different, but I don’t know how.”
Van der Poel will appear at Sutherland Local Court on Tuesday.