What's Cool In Road Cycling

Lotto Belisol: Preview Paris-Roubaix

Sunday the peloton will race through the Hell of the North. That’s 257 kilometers over French roads, of which 51.1 kilometers are cobbled. It’s the 111th time the riders will cover the cobbles between Paris and Roubaix, although the start is given in Compiègne. The finish is of course on the velodrome of Roubaix. The race is the fifth one day race on the WorldTour calendar this year.

51,1 km cobbles divided over 28 sectors
There are 28 cobblestone sections, called sectors in Paris-Roubaix, spread over the course. They were given stars depending on the length, the state of the cobbles and the location. After 97.5 kilometers of racing sector 28 waits on the riders, one begins to count back to front. This sector is 2200 meters long and got three stars. The three sectors of five stars are known: Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre. From this place 15 kilometers is left to the finish. Next there are two sectors of two stars. The last cobbles are in Roubaix, just before entering the velodrome, that sector has got one star.

LTB offers opportunities to youngsters
Jürgen Roelandts hasn’t sufficiently healed after his crash in the Tour of Flanders last Sunday and has to pass for the Hell of the North. Lotto Belisol takes three neo-pros to the start: Vegard Breen (24), Stig Broeckx (23) and Boris Vallée (20). The team finds it important to give chances to young riders, also on the highest level. An idea that’s strongly supported by the Belgian National Lottery. For Broeckx and Vallée it’s the first meeting with the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, they never rode the edition for juniors or U23. Next to three debutants there are more experienced riders at the start. Even the 24-year-old Jens Debusschere will start his fourth Paris-Roubaix. For Kris Boeckmans (27) it’s his third time, for Kenny Dehaes (29) the fifth. Lars Bak (34) and Marcel Sieberg (31) both will participate for the 8th time.

Marc Sergeant, manager Lotto Belisol: “It’s not the moment to put specific pressure on the riders in the selection or put forward an exact result. We start exceptionally with the thought that nothing is obliged and everything can happen. That could turn out positively, it offers opportunities to each of our riders. Our men have to join a breakaway. They have to animate the race and be prepared to die. Everybody is keen to ride Sunday.”

Learn for the future
Boris Vallée: “Because of the circumstances of the past weeks – crashes and injuries – I got my place in the selection. That’s a very nice opportunity and I will get to learn for the future. I don’t know what to expect. The recon did give me a good feeling. I’m from the province of Liège and know the hills of La Doyenne well, but with my physique I’m more built to race over cobbles; I’m a costaud. It’s an honour for me to make my début in Paris-Rpubaix at the age of 20 in the shirt of Lotto Belisol. If there’s an opportunity to join a breakaway I will definitely grab the chance. I want to prove myself and show that I’m worthy of my place in the selection.”

Focus on Paris-Roubaix
Stig Broeckx: “I never thought that I could ride the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix as neo-pro. Participating in the Ronde already was a dream. On Monday I felt bad, I was sore everywhere. Tuesday that was already much better; I’m definitely ready for Sunday. This week I watched the video of the Tour of Flanders. I defended the colours of the team and it pleased me to see that. This week I tried to take some distance from the attention for my performance. I wanted to take rest both mentally and physically. Of course I’m happy the people like what I did, but my focus is on the next race.”

“The team offers me opportunities and it’s up to me to grab those with both hands. What my exact role will be, will be discussed on Saturday. That’s good, because otherwise you’re thinking about it too long beforehand. We’ve lost our absolute leader, Jürgen Roelandts. But guys like Jens Debusschere and Lars Bak are experienced as well. I’d love to get in a break, but of course that’s not easy. Moreover it’s the first time I ride two classics in a row. On the recon you could choose the way to follow, but in the race you depend on 200 other riders and the people along the road are close to the cobbles. In the past I did BMX and cyclo-cross, the skills I learnt there will definitely come in handy.”

This hurts
Jürgen Roelandts: “My pelvis is still sore. A new check-up showed there’s a tear in my abs. It wasn’t an option to start. Wednesday and Thursday I literally couldn’t step on my bike. Of course I had hoped I would have felt better by now, but that’s not the case. I’ve had more severe injuries, but this hurts because this is the period I have worked for. The rest period I had planned after the classics has been prolonged. It’s difficult to know how much time I’ll need to recover and get fit again. I’m definitely curious to see how the young team will perform on Sunday and I hope they can show the team colours.”

Selection Lotto Belisol: Lars Bak, Kris Boeckmans, Vegard Breen, Stig Broeckx, Jens Debusschere, Kennny Dehaes, Marcel Sieberg and Boris Vallée.
Sports director: Herman Frison.

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