Preview Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne
DS Frederik Willems about a race he has won himself.
The Flemish Spring Classics start this Saturday 2 March. The Belgian opening weekend, with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne once again promises to be really exciting. The 74th edition of the Omloop will be 200 kilometres long, this year with a new finish in the city centre of Ninove. Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot, the two Lotto Soudal leaders for Saturday, look ahead.
Tim Wellens: “I can look back on an excellent Ruta del Sol, topped off with two stage wins. My legs felt really good and that feeling won’t change much in one week time. Because of that, the confidence towards the Classics – for me starting with the Omloop – is great. Contrary to last year, I want to save some energy going into the finale. I will try to wait as long as possible to attack. Of course, choosing the right moment is always difficult in the Flemish races, as each climb can be decisive. Besides, I read that there is going to be a tailwind during the finale, which could play a role as well. Maybe it will cause the race to be more open.”
“The preparation is over now. The races which I am aiming for – the Omloop, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Walloon Classics – are right behind the corner. This is my second time participating in the Omloop and this year, I will be leading the team together with Tiesj Benoot. I consider Greg Van Avermaet – who may win for the third time – as the biggest favourite on Saturday. I also reckon that Michael Matthews will be amongst the possible winners, although his name has not been mentioned a lot so far. The Omloop marks his first race of the season, but he will certainly be in good shape.”
Tiesj Benoot: “Wednesday evening, I arrived in Belgium after an altitude training in the Sierra Nevada with Jens Keukeleire. I feel very good and I look forward to the first Belgian races. Feeling great on training is always nice, but it is still something else to put that in practice. The tailwind will constitute a major difference compared to last year. This will be an advantage for the offensive riders, including myself. I think we have a really strong team in general. We can go for the victory in the Omloop with these seven riders.”
“The competition will be tough, because everyone is very eager to begin the spring season. There will be a lot of candidates for the victory. We all had a different preparation, so it is hard to evaluate the opponents. In December, we have done a recon of the course and we also tested the equipment. Soon, we will brush up on everything together and go through it profoundly. An additional recon wasn’t really necessary. I also know the surroundings very well. The Muur van Geraardsbergen is undoubtedly a crucial climb on the course. Also the Molenberg will be an important point in the race. I think the finale could start early this year. My other goals are every upcoming one-day race and Tirreno-Adriatico as well. If I can take a win in one of those race, my spring campaign would be successful.”
Line-up Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes, Brian van Goethem and Tim Wellens.
Line-up Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Stan Dewulf, Nikolas Maes, Rémy Mertz, Lawrence Naesen and Brian van Goethem.