Tim Wellens previews Amstel Gold Race
"The actual finale starts from the Kruisberg and the Eyserbosweg."
This week three Italian races are scheduled for Lotto Soudal: Milan-Turin (10/10, 1.HC), GranPiemonte (11/10, 1.HC) and the last Classic of the season ‘Il Lombardia’ (13/10, WorldTour).
Milan-Turin, of which the 99th edition will be held this week, was contested a first time in 1876. This race of 200 kilometres leads the peloton through the Po Valley. The last 25 kilometres are the tough part, with two ascents of the Colle di Superga where the finish line is drawn. GranPiemonte, a race that’s on the calendar for the 102nd time, is only 191 kilometres long and therefore the shortest of the week. The course, with a home straight of one kilometre, is perfect for a bunch sprint. It’s the 112th edition of Il Lombardia this year. The riders start in Bergamo and will finish in Como after 241 kilometres and 4000 elevation metres. In the last seventy kilometres the Madonna del Ghisallo and Muro di Sormano await the riders, before hitting the Civiglio. At the end of the race the riders need to climb one last hill of 1700 metres, with an average gradient of 5%. Afterwards three kilometres are left till the finish.
Bart Leysen, sports director Lotto Soudal: “Milan-Turin has a mainly flat course, until the riders get to Turin. There the peloton needs to cover the Colle di Superga twice. It’s not a long climb, but it’s a tough one (9.1% average gradient, with peaks up to 14%, LTS). This will be a last test for the riders who want to set a good result at Il Lombardia. GranPiemonte is a flat race where the peloton could sprint for victory. Although there are no pure sprinters at the start and that’s why no team will want to control the race. So there is a chance that a large breakaway, in which many teams are represented, stays ahead till the finish. We need to make sure we have a guy in a break that has potential. There’s a change of course in the finale of Il Lombardia due to a road closure, but that finale is mainly the same as previous years and this small adaptation won’t influence the race. At Milan-Turin we’ll already see who we can expect to battle for the win on Saturday.”
Lombardia is the main goal, but of course we also want to animate the other two races.
Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens are the leaders at Lotto Soudal for Il Lombardia. They would have had Jelle Vanendert at their side, but unfortunately the flu prevents him from racing this week. He is replaced by James Shaw.
Bart Leysen: “Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens will definitely want to test their legs on the final climb of Milan-Turin. I hope they have a very good day on Saturday. The ascent of the Civiglio will be crucial; you need to cross that with the first riders to be able to battle for victory in Como. It’s important to save as much energy as possible before reaching the Civiglio. There is a slight chance of rain on Saturday and that could be an advantage for us. Tim already got fourth once in Lombardia (in 2014, LTS) and is now a few years older and more experienced, so he is definitely capable of setting a top result. The same goes for Tiesj. He had a bad day at the Worlds, but rode a strong Eurométropole Tour the week before and that condition can’t have vanished. He proved that at Paris-Tours last Sunday.”
“We got the chance this season to participate in Milan-Turin and GranPiemonte and we grabbed that chance with both hands. In the past, a run-up along these two races seemed to be helping to perform well at Il Lombardia. A race is often better than a training as a preparation. But we don’t see this races as mere preparation though. Lombardia is the main goal, but of course we also want to animate the other two races.”
“And we have a strong team for it. Thomas De Gendt can definitely join breakaways this week, also in Lombardia. Thomas hasn’t raced anymore since the Vuelta, so maybe he needs the first two races to get back in the race rhythm, on the other hand he might immediately set a great performance on Wednesday. You never know with Thomas. Jens Keukeleire had to skip Paris-Tours last weekend, but he’s sufficiently recovered to race this week. After his crash at the Tour, he was out of competition for several weeks and therefore he still feels fresh. Jens will support his teammates and on Thursday he’s our man for the possible bunch sprint. James Shaw was strong at the Worlds (He got 10th at the U23 road race, LTS), which proves he’s still in a good condition at the end of the season. That made him the perfect replacement for Jelle Vanendert. Bjorg Lambrecht knows a large part of the course of Il Lombardia from the U23 edition (He got 3rd in 2016, LTS). He can gain experience this week and support the team where possible. Maxime Monfort on the other hand has lots of experience. He will be our team captain this week.”
Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Thomas De Gendt, Jens Keukeleire, Bjorg Lambrecht, Maxime Monfort, James Shaw and Tim Wellens.
Sports director: Bart Leysen.