Preview Tour de Luxembourg
Lotto Soudal will ride the Tour de Luxembourg this week, a five-day Europe Tour stage race from Wednesday 1 June until Sunday 5 June. Like you could read in yesterday’s statement by team manager Marc Sergeant, it’s important for riders and staff to be together in this difficult time. Results are of minor importance.
Mario Aerts, sports director Lotto Soudal: “The entire team is shaken by what happened to Stig Broeckx and we want to deal with this together. It’s important to be there for each other now. Our thoughts are with Stig, who is fighting hard at the moment. Results don’t matter this week.”
Sander Armée: “This situation is terrible, we are powerless and can’t do anything, we can only hope he pulls through. As riders we are much more than just colleagues, because we spend so much time together. When Stig joined the team he was my roommate for a while. This situation will have its influence on all of us this week, but I think it’s the right decision to race, now we can support each other.”
The stages in Luxembourg are partially flat, but some tough hills at the end of the stages could get in the way of a sprint. The race starts Wednesday evening with a prologue of 2.8 kilometres in Luxembourg City. The roads on the course are mainly straight, except for a sharp hairpin turn in the descent at the start of the prologue. The descent and the cobbled climb leading to the finish, make it a very technical prologue.
The first stage takes the riders from Luxembourg City to Hesperange (170.6 km). The last 65 kilometres there are three local laps of 18.5 kilometres in which there’s a climb (Rue d’Alzingen). However it is very likely that the first stage will end in a bunch sprint. The second stage from Rosport to Schifflange (162.8 km) is a stage for explosive riders. The last hill has a gradient of 12.8%. The third stage is 177.4 km long and goes from Eschweiler to Differdange. Just like the first stage, there are three local laps in the finale, with the Col de l’Europe on the route this time. This climb with a gradient of 9% is perfect for punchers. In the fourth and last stage, which is also the longest (178.2 km), the peloton goes back to Luxembourg City. The riders need to overcome six climbs of first and second category. In the finale the peloton will head four times over the Pabeierbierg, a first category climb with a 9% climbing rate. The stage finishes on this climb and is perfect for a late attack or victory of an explosive rider.
Mario Aerts: “The last two years the Tour de Luxembourg really suited our team. This edition is harder than the previous ones, though. The prologue is the same as always and is quite technical with a hard descent in the start and a cobbled climb towards the finish. Even though the first stage might end in a bunch sprint, the following days will be hard. The second and third stage have a climb at the end, but a sprint with a small group is still possible. On the last day, the riders have to cover local laps in the city of Luxembourg and they have to surmount a steep climb. Last year Sean de Bie won this stage, but then the finish was one kilometre after the climb and in 2014 it was André Greipel who won as the last survivor of a long day in the break.”
The past weeks Sander Armée set some nice results. He conquered the KOM jersey at the Tour de Romandie and he got fifth overall at the Tour of Norway, where he also finished three times in the top ten of a stage.
Sander Armée: “The Tour de Romandie was really good for the confidence. I almost rode the entire first stage solo in front. It was the beginning of my fight for the KOM jersey. It proves that every attempt can be successful. At the Tour of Norway the condition was still fine and I aimed for a good GC. Some riders who finished ahead of me on GC had gained some bonus seconds, uphill I really was one of the best. I never rode the Tour de Luxembourg before, but in the youth categories I did race in that country. When I take a look at the profiles I could compare it to the Tour of Norway where we also had to cover a lot of local laps with a hill. I like the course: tough finales in which the route goes up and down all the time with no time to recover. The first stage seems to be one for the fast guys, but the stages afterwards all suit me. The third stage is one I really like with the Col de l’Europe in the local lap. In that lap it just goes to the top of the climb and then there’s a descent towards the finish line, no time to take a breath.”
Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Sander Armée, Jasper De Buyst, André Greipel, Greg Henderson, Marcel Sieberg, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Wallays.
Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Kurt Van de Wouwer.
Prologue: Wednesday 1 June: Luxembourg – Luxembourg (2.8 km)
Stage 1: Thursday 2 June: Luxembourg – Hesperange (170.6 km)
Stage 2: Friday 3 June: Rosport – Schifflange (162.8 km)
Stage 3: Saturday 4 June: Eschweiler – Differdange (177.4 km)
Stage 4: Sunday 5 June: Mersch – Luxembourg (178.2 km)