Tiesj Benoot, Bart De Clercq and Pim Ligthart give their impressions after the recon of the course of the European Games
In Baku the women and men did a recon of the course of the road race of the European Games. They covered three laps. Lotto Soudal riders Tiesj Benoot, Bart De Clercq and Pim Ligthart were riding in that peloton. The first two are part of the Belgian selection, Pim rides for the Dutch national team. It’s tropical weather in Baku, with temperatures above thirty degrees Celsius. That’s also forecasted for this weekend. The men will ride the road race on Sunday. They have to cover sixteen laps, it’s a total distance of 215.8 kilometres. There is one climb, divided in two parts, with top eight kilometres before the finish. The race starts at ten o’clock in Baku, that’s 7:00 am CEST.
Bart, Tiesj and Pim give their first impressions from Azerbaijan.
Bart De Clercq: “It’s a tough course. There are cobblestones in the first part of the climb, the second part is asphalt. That’s where the steepest parts are. Gaps can be created there. After the descent the road is flat. In the last three kilometres there are a few curves, there is a last sharp turn three hundred metres before the finish line.”
“A title race is always hard to predict. The course is hard enough to make it a tough race, but it could be that not much happens until late in the race. If the finale starts early it won’t be a large group at the end. I will help the team. I might join an early breakaway or do my job in the first part of the race, we’ll see.”
“This is a special event and I’m happy to be here, it’s an adventure. There is a village for all the athletes, just like at the Olympic Games. My girlfriend Sofie De Vuyst is part of the Belgian women’s team, it’s extra special we can share this experience.”
Tiesj Benoot: “It’s impressive to be at the European Games. You notice this is different than a normal race, it’s great to be here. The weather is a disadvantage for me. It’s very hot, up to forty degrees Celsius in the sun I guess. That’s not my kind of weather.”
“This is a course that suits me, because of that hill that we have to cover each lap. You’ll feel the succession of those ascents in your legs and that will be crucial. It’s not easy to compare the climb with another one. The second part, which is quite steep, reminds me a bit of the Berendries. But it’s definitely not the same.”
“I expect it to be an elimination race. Because we ride with small teams of maximal six riders, it will be difficult for a team to control the race. My condition is fine, I have recuperated from the Dauphiné. I don’t like this type of weather, in the Dauphiné it was also tough for me on the hot days. My best day was on Friday, when it rained. I don’t aim for a specific result. I’ll just do the best I can.”
Pim Ligthart: “I think it’s an honour to ride for my county, I grew up with that as a track cyclist. I really wanted to be part of this first edition of the European Games. It’s really nice to have all these different sports represented here. You see other sportsmen and –women around you, that’s nice.”
“It’s good that we had a recon of the course today, we know the difficult points now. It’s a pretty tough lap with a tough climb. The first part of the climb is on a narrow road with cobbles, for the rest the roads are very wide and fast.”
“I think it will be an open race because of the small teams, which will make it hard to control. Because Mathieu van der Poel cancelled, we are only with five at the start, so that definitely won’t be our job. It’s very hot here in Baku. It’s an advantage that we ride on a circuit, after thirteen kilometres you can always get a water bottle. I want to ride the finale Sunday and then I’ll see where it gets me.”