What's Cool In Road Cycling

The ambitions of Tiesj Benoot and Jens Debusschere for the Belgium Tour

Tomorrow, Wednesday 25 May, the Baloise Belgium Tour begins with a prologue of six kilometres in Beveren. This Europe Tour race ends on Sunday 29 May with a stage to Tongeren.

The day after the prologue it’s the traditional sprint stage to Knokke-Heist. On Friday the peloton leaves the Belgian coast and heads to the Flemish Ardennes. More than 110 kilometres before the end of the race the riders pass the finish in Herzele a first time, then they need to cover two laps of 55.6 kilometres. There are three hills in that loop: Valkenberg, Leberg and Berendries. That last hill is situated halfway the lap, then the riders head towards the cobbles of the Paddestraat and Lippenhovestraat, the last obstacle at ten kilometres from the finish.

On Saturday it’s the longest and toughest stage of this race. There are eight hills on the course, the last four need to be climbed twice. The Côte de Maquisard and Côte de la Redoute are two of those hills. The last hill, Rue de la Paix, lies at five kilometres from the end. On Sunday the stage takes the riders from Tremelo to Tongeren. They get a chance to take a good look at the finish because they need to cover three laps of 18.8 kilometers. Important for the GC riders is the Golden Kilometre: three intermediate sprints within one kilometre at about 25 kilometres from the finish were bonus seconds can be gained.

With Tiesj Benoot and Jens Debusschere there are two Classics riders in the Lotto Soudal team who had their share of bad luck this spring, by crashing at the Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem respectively. Both got back in competition at the Tour de Picardie and hope to perform well in their own country.

Tiesj Benoot: “This spring I really felt like I had set a step forward and felt that I was ready for the Ronde, Roubaix and Amstel. Then I crashed in the Ronde. It was hard mentally, because I knew I was strong enough but I couldn’t ride the finales due to that crash and its consequences. After the Amstel I had a short holiday and then I did a training camp in Italy, together with Jens Debusschere, to get ready for this time of the year. The Tour de Picardie was a race to get back in the rhythm, but the Belgium Tour is a real goal. I aim for a stage win and also want to get a high overall ranking. The overall victory is a goal, but not an obsession.”

“The stages on Friday and Saturday really suit me. Riders who want to set a good overall result will need to be strong on Saturday. Of course it’s best not to lose much time in the prologue, but on the other hand a god time trialist who can’t follow the best riders on Saturday, won’t win the GC either. Nonetheless, the past weeks I did some tests and worked on my position on the time trial bike. I know I can still make progress and I hope that I can show tomorrow that my training of the last weeks has already helped. But as I said, Saturday will be an important stage. It’s a very tough stage, we did a recon with the team last weekend. All those hills will hurt. I expect that riders like Tony Martin, Enrico Gasparotto, Wout Van Aert and Lieuwe Westra will be good.”

“The next four weeks are very important with the Belgium Tour, Tour de Suisse and Belgian Championships on the calendar. Last year I rode the Dauphiné, but know I will ride in Switzerland because there are several finales that match my profile. In the Dauphiné it are stages for sprinters or climbers. The road race at the Belgian Championships is a goal as well, but first let’s do it well at the Belgium Tour.”

Jens Debusschere: “I fractured two transverse processes in my back when I crashed in Ghent-Wevelgem. I needed to rest three weeks long. The Tour de Picardie was my first race, seven weeks after the crash. I didn’t have the best possible feeling yet. Each sprint I noticed I wasn’t in top shape yet. I had trained hard just before Picardie, afterwards I took enough rest to get the best condition for the Belgium Tour. The second and third stage suit me. Thursday it will very likely be a bunch sprint and on Friday it’s a stage in the Flemish Ardennes. What happens on Sunday will depend on how tiring the stage on Saturday was. In Picardie Boeckmans, De Buyst and Sieberg did a very strong lead-out three times. If they do the same now that would be fantastic, then it’s up to me to finish it off.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Tiesj Benoot, Kris Boeckmans, Stig Broeckx, Jasper De Buyst, Jens Debusschere, Frederik Frison, Marcel Sieberg and Jelle Wallays.
Sports directors: Herman Frison and Marc Wauters.

Stages

Prologue: Wednesday 25 May: Beveren – Beveren (6 km)

Stage 1: Thursday 26 May: Buggenhout – Knokke-Heist (177.3 km)

Stage 2: Friday 27 May: Knokke-Heist – Herzele (200.4 km)

Stage 3: Saturday 28 May: Verviers – Verviers (206.9 km)

Stage 4: Sunday 29 May: Tremelo – Tongeren (174.2 km)

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