What's Cool In Road Cycling

Preview Belgian Championships with Herman Frison and Lotte Kopecky

Next Sunday the road race at the Belgian Championships takes place. The course in Antwerp is seventeen kilometres long. The women need to cover six laps (= 102 kilometres) and already start at eight o’clock. At a quarter to twelve the men start the first of fourteen laps, which will amount to a total distance of 238 kilometres. In the last five kilometres of the course there are two cobblestone sections. The first is one kilometre long, the second about 500 metres.

Sports director Herman Frison looks ahead to the men’s race.

Herman Frison: “In the past we’ve seen that Belgian championships on a flat course were often ridden at a high speed. Although the course is flat, the field can definitely fall apart. A peloton sprint is a possibility, but I don’t think it is very likely.”

“The Belgian Championship is always an unpredictable race and difficult to control. There are many possible scenarios for Sunday. If the pace is high right from the start, the cobblestone sections could influence the race at the end. Someone could chose for a late attack for example.”

“At Lotto Soudal we don’t have a specific leader for the race. We have a group with several riders who can win on this course. You will need to grab your chance at the right moment, but it’s impossible to predict when that will be. That can be in the first lap, but also in the last lap. Philippe Gilbert is the main favourite according to me. He is having a very good season. And he dares to go early.”

The Dutch national championships will take place on a hilly course of 231 kilometres in Montferland. In total the riders have to complete fourteen laps of 16,6 kilometres each. There are three short climbs in each lap. On top of that, the final 600 metres of each lap are going slightly uphill. Moreno Hofland has proven to be in good shape during the Ster ZLM Toer and he is an outsider for next Sunday.

In Germany, the riders face eleven local laps of 19.4 kilometres in and around Chemnitz, which amounts to 213.4 kilometres in total. It is expected to be a hard race, as there is an elevation gain of 1980 metres. Some of the world’s best sprinters are present, which makes that this race will probably lead to a bunch sprint. Titleholder André Greipel is one of the riders to watch. He gets the support from Marcel Sieberg during the race, who will help him to conquer a fourth national title.

Next Sunday, Great Britain will also hold its national championships on the Isle of Man. The 193.7-kilometre race is divided over two separate circuits. First, the riders have to complete two laps of 60 kilometres each. Afterwards there is a second local circuit of 7.25 kilometres, on which the riders must race ten laps. As the second circuit is almost completely flat, it is perfectly suited for a bunch sprint. Neo-pro James Shaw is to only Lotto Soudal rider to start the race.

The past three years Lotte Kopecky each time finished second at the Belgian Championship for women. This year the 21-year-old rider gets a new opportunity, although her preparation was far from perfect with a hamstring injury and illness. She rode her last race on May 14.

Lotte Kopecky: “At the moment I’m feeling fine. I did a recon of the course and know what to expect on Sunday. It’s good that there are two cobblestone sections on the course, because otherwise it would be a bit dull. It are two straight sections, but the cobblestones are not in a perfect state. You can’t avoid them though. I find it a nice part. I think the cobblestones can definitely cause a selection in the pack. That is if the pace isn’t only raised on the cobbles, but if the tempo has been high for a while. The rest of the race takes place on nice roads. There are a few corners, but these aren’t technical.”

“Sport Vlaanderen can definitely make the race hard as they are big in numbers. Also Lares and Lensworld could play a similar role. As a team we should also race aggressively. There can’t be a breakaway without one of us. Jolien D’hoore of course has a huge chance of taking the title. Sanne Cant also seems in a good shape and the course suits Valerie Demey. And of course there are the Druyts sisters for whom this is a home race.”

“At the beginning of the season this was a big goal for me. I still want to win, but because of my illness and injury I haven’t raced for six weeks and I am a bit uncertain about my condition. The advantage is that I don’t need to put any pressure on myself. I will give the best I got, you can be sure of that.”

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