Jelle Wallays for the GP La Marseillaise and Etoile de Bessèges
While a part of the Lotto Soudal team is still in Australia for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race next Sunday and another part is in Mallorca for the Challenge Mallorca, a team is heading for France to participate in the GP La Marseillaise (29th January) and the Étoile de Bessèges (1st until 5th February).
The Grand Prix La Marseillaise is the French season opener. The finale of this Europe Tour race has been redrawn and is hence more difficult. The riders have to climb the three kilometres long Pas de Bellefille. Next Tuesday, the five-day stage race Étoile de Bessèges starts. This stage race from the Europe Tour ends on Sunday 5th February with an individual time trial.
Jelle Wallays is making his season’s debut in the GP La Marseillaise. It is the second year that he will defend the Lotto Soudal colours. We inquired about his condition and his ambition for the following weeks.
Jelle Wallays: “My first season for Lotto Soudal was a pleasant surprise. During spring it did not run smoothly due to injuries and crashes but the second part of the season made up for it. I won the GP Cerami, finished the Vuelta and I felt strong until the last race. I am really satisfied that I signed with a WorldTour team and that I showed that I was worthy of my place at the highest level.”
“I think that this season I will experience the advantages of finishing my first Grand Tour. I rode The Vuelta without any problem and one day I was even in the attack. It is very important that I made it to Madrid. I hope I will benefit from it this year. I feel really good during training and I am happy that I can start the season in my current shape.”
“At the end of last season, I felt I had put a step forward. I think I can have the ambition to ride the finales of the classical spring. During the Belgian opening weekend I want to go for it. In the past I have always been able to play a role in these races but in the end I failed to compete for the prizes. This year I want to animate the finale thanks to the progress I made. The GP La Marseillaise and the Étoile de Bessèges are part of my preparation for the classic races. It are two hard races and the atmosphere is always nervous because everyone wants to know where they stand at the moment. I want to sharpen my condition. Either by pulling for a teammate or by attacking myself and making the race hard.”
Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Kris Boeckmans, Jens Debusschere, Jasper De Buyst, Tony Gallopin, Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Jelle Wallays.
Sports director: Frederik Willems.
Stage 1 Wednesday 1st February: Bellegarde – Beaucaire (158 km)
Stage 2 Tuesday 2nd February: Nîmes- Rodilhan (152 km)
Stage 3 Friday 3rd February: Bessèges – Bessèges (152 km)
Stage 4 Saturday 4th February: Chusclan – Laudun l’Ardoise (153 km)
Stage 5 Sunday 5th February: Alès – Alès (11.9 km) (ITT).