What's Cool In Road Cycling

Preview Tour de Suisse with Frederik Willems and Jelle Vanendert

The day after tomorrow, Saturday 11 June, Lotto Soudal will stand at the start of the nine-day stage race Tour de Suisse. This year the WorldTour race is working together with Velon. During the live broadcast data of the riders will be shown. Lotto Soudal is very pleased with the cooperation between Velon and the Tour de Suisse and wants to contribute to a beautiful race.

It all begins with a time trial of 6.4 kilometres on Saturday. The three following days the riders don’t have to climb higher than 800 metres of altitude. Those stages can be divided between the sprinters and Classics riders. As of Wednesday the peloton will hit the high mountains. There are three hard mountain stages in a row, which all have a summit finish. Davos will host the last weekend of the race. On Saturday there is an individual time trial of 16.8 kilometres and on Sunday a mountain stage is scheduled with two climbs hors catégorie and a long descent in the finale.

At Lotto Soudal Rafael Valls would normally have been selected for the Tour de Suisse, but because of a shoulder injury it’s impossible for him to start. Sports director Frederik Willems gives more info about the selection and tells what he expects of the riders.

Frederik Willems: “At the moment Rafael Valls is training on the rollers, but racing isn’t possible. At the end of the month he might take part in the Spanish Championships and in July he will ride the Tour de Pologne. Rafa was our GC rider for Switzerland, so it’s such a shame that he can’t start. No we go to Switzerland without aiming for GC. Our goal is to win a stage, we have several options.”

“There are a few opportunities for the sprinters and in those stages Jürgen Roelandts or Tosh Van der Sande will be our man. Recently Tosh set again some good results in sprints on a tough course. Also Jürgen has the capacities to do well in the kind of sprints that we can expect in Switzerland. Pim Ligthart can help with the sprint preparations.”

“Last year, Tiesj Benoot rode the Dauphiné, but now he chose for the Tour de Suisse. He did very well in the Dauphiné, he performed well in some of the mountain stages last year. When you take a look at the stages in Switzerland there should be more opportunities for him in this race. In the second stage, which consists of four laps, it’s possible that the teams wait for a long time to try something. When the battle starts Tiesj is the right man to jump along. He always races attentively and feels when it’s the right moment to attack. Jelle Wallays is a man from our Classics core as well. After a crash in the Volta ao Algarve it was difficult for him to get back on track. It’s his first year in a WorldTour team and we want to let him experience a big one-week stage race, which is a preparation for the Tour for many.”

“For the mountain stages Sander Armée, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens are our leaders. Sander could join an early breakaway and see how far it goes. It’s also good for him to show him on this level, like he did at the Tour de Romandie. No doubt, Tim will also want to show himself in the mountains. He could set a good result by joining a breakaway or, like in the Giro, by attacking in the finale. Also for Jelle Vanendert there are some opportunities. He was still strong at the end of the Giro, so that’s a good sign.”

Jelle Vanendert: “It was a fantastic Giro as our team won four stages, which is a rare performance in a Grand Tour. The fact that we all contributed to the success is wonderful. In the stages that André won, I started pulling at the head of the peloton quite early in the race to make sure the escapees stayed close. We all made sure that André could get to the sprint in the best possible conditions. What the victory of Tim Wellens is concerned, it is beautiful to see how a young rider becomes a team leader more and more and is always achieving bigger victories. Nonetheless, it was a hard Giro, at the end I was tired from all the efforts. I had also participated in the Walloon Classics, so I had been riding at the highest level for a long time. Still, I felt like I had survived the Giro quite well. The past two weeks I took a lot of rest to get ready for what’s coming. The season is still long and there are several races I like such as the Belgian Championships, Tour de Wallonie, San Sebastián, the Canadian races and Lombardia.”

“At the moment I don’t know what to expect of the Tour de Suisse. It could be that all runs smoothly right from the start, but it could also be that I need a few days to adjust to the race rhythm. But there are definitely some opportunities for a rider like me. In the real mountain stages of course, but also in the other stages a small group could ride to the finish. I could take my chance on the climbs in those finales.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Sander Armée, Tiesj Benoot, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert, Jelle Wallays and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Frederik Willems.

Stage 1 Saturday 11 June: Baar – Baar (6.4 km) (ITT)
Stage 2 Sunday 12 June: Baar – Baar (187.6 km)
Stage 3 Monday 13 June: Grosswangen – Rheinfelden (192.6 km)
Stage 4 Tuesday 14 June: Rheinfelden – Champagne (193 km)
Stage 5 Wednesday 15 June: Brig-Glis – Carì (126.4 km)
Stage 6 Thursday 16 June: Weesen – Amden (162.8 km)
Stage 7 Friday 17 June: Arbon – Sölden (224.3 km)
Stage 8 Saturday 18 June: Davos – Davos (16.8 km) (ITT)
Stage 9 Sunday 19 June: Davos – Davos (117.7 km)

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