This week the European Championships are being held in Herning, Denmark. On Sunday the men elite will contest the road race. Six Lotto Soudal riders are selected for their national team. Lars Bak can defend the honour of his country on home soil. Jasper De Buyst, Jens Debusschere, Nikolas Maes and Jelle Wallays are part of the Belgian team. The Dutch team can rely on Moreno Hofland.

The course in Herning is 20.1 kilometres long and almost completely flat. The riders will cover twelve laps, making it a total distance of 241.2 kilometres. According to the Lotto Soudal riders the wind could play a crucial role.

Lars Bak: “It’s always an honour to be selected for the national team and especially because the European Championships take place in Denmark. In 2011 I rode the World Championships in my home country and in 2012 the Giro started in Herning. This will be another special moment for me. We have a really good sprinter in our Danish team: Magnus Cort Nielsen. He is a young Danish rider who won two Vuelta stages last year and finished second in RideLondon past weekend behind Kristoff. Magnus will be our captain. We have a very mixed team of nine riders, I am the oldest one. We still have to hold a team meeting, so I don’t know yet if the coach will ask us to ride aggressively or not. In that case I am looking forward to attack. If we fully aim for a sprint, I will need to control the race. Anyway, I am very motivated to show myself in front of the home crowds. There are not many corners on the course and it only gets a little technical in the city. About half of the course takes place in open areas, where the wind can definitely play a role. That will be exciting.”

Jasper De Buyst: “This selection is a nice reward for the good season I had up till now. We will discuss my exact job when we get there, but that will probably be joining the break when it’s a larger group and then heading towards the finish with about twenty riders. And when you’re part of a group you want to set the best result possible. When the race should end with a sprint and I have to pull the sprint for a teammate I will do all I can to get him in perfect position.”

Jens Debusschere: “I always find it an honour to represent my country at a Championship. The course in Herning should suit me: completely flat, with a chance of echelons. I love that type of races. If the peloton falls apart and we go to the finish with a smaller group I definitely stand a chance. After the altitude training camp in Livigno last month and five days of racing in Poland I feel the condition is increasing and I am getting near my best level. I am ambitious for Sunday. I hope for an open and pretty tough race; then you never know. I want to return home with a good feeling. I am definitely thinking about getting a good result.”

Moreno Hofland: “It’s nice to be part of the Dutch selection and always an honour. This is the second time the European Championships are organised for pro riders and the first time I participate. I am really looking forward to it. It’s a beautiful, nice course with probably a lot of wind. And that’s perfect for me. It’s my goal to battle for the medals. If I win a medal, I will be very satisfied, but taking the victory is of course the most important. I haven’t won yet this season, so standing on the podium would already be great, but at a Championship you aim for the highest.”

Nikolas Maes: “It feels good to be selected for the national team. After the Worlds in Richmond and Qatar in 2015 and 2016 this is my third selection as a pro. At the beginning of the season I hadn’t marked this race, but when our coach Kevin De Weert put a selection on the table I was immediately enthusiastic. I find a course in Denmark that suits me. The fact that the wind could influence the race is very motivating. I expect our team to be aggressive and that creates opportunities. If the coach is happy about my race, I will be too. It would be great to have a Belgian European champion, even nicer if that would be someone from the Lotto Soudal team and of course wonderful if I would conquer the jersey.”

Jelle Wallays: “This is the first time I am part of the Belgian line-up and I am very proud. I already wanted to make it into the selection for a while. I came close for the Worlds in Qatar last year and now I finally made it. The course in Denmark could cause surprises if there’s wind. Rain would make the race even harder. It is definitely a course for Belgians. My job will be to pull the peloton ahead of the sprint or make the race hard. I will be happy afterwards if I gave all I got for my country.”