Preview Flèche Wallonne
Mario Aerts, sports director at Lotto Soudal, talks about a race he won himself in 2002.
The first European races will take place on the Spanish island of Mallorca from Thursday 31 January till Sunday 3 February. The Challenge Mallorca consists of four individual races, the so-called Trofeos. Herman Frison, sports director of Lotto Soudal, discusses the renewed course and explains the team’s ambitions.
Herman Frison: “Contrary to last year, three instead of two Trofeos are suited to climbers or punchers. With riders like Armée, Lambrecht, Monfort, Vanhoucke and Wellens, we have several good climbers in our line-up. Besides, Iversen, Frison, De Buyst, Naesen, van Goethem and Wouters will also join the Lotto Soudal forces in Mallorca. This means that we can easily switch our line-up, depending on the course of the races.”
“For most of the riders, the Challenge is the first race of their season. The racing is likely to be nervous because everybody is a bit in the dark about their shape. The Mallorcan races are the ideal way to get the first race kilometres in the legs. It may be one of the first events of the season but the goal is clear; we want to leave Mallorca with at least one victory. Tim Wellens already won some Trofeos in the past, so he will for sure be our leader. Tim is the kind of rider who’s already in good shape at the beginning of the season.”
“There’s no time to warm up the legs as the first Trofeo immediately has an uphill finish in store for the riders. The San Salvador climb (5 km à 6.2%) is certainly not to be underestimated. The run-up to the final climb is not really selective so it will be crucial to get Tim Wellens well-positioned at the foot. During the second Trofeo, the climbing really kicks off. At around 35 kilometres from the line, the riders will face the tough and relatively long climb to Puig Major. For sure, there won’t be a sprint there but maybe a little group will battle for the victory. The hills prior to the Puig Major will already ensure a big selection. The third race (Trofeo de Tramuntana) will finish in Deia, where Wellens already won on two occasions. In my opinion, that will be the most difficult challenge of the week.”
“The ultimate Trofeo will likely be one for the sprinters. But a third category climb - at around 35 kilometres from the line - won’t make things easier. The sprinters who get dropped will get a chance to make their way back to the bunch during the flat local laps in Palma. Initially, Jasper De Buyst wasn’t scheduled to participate in the Challenge but he is currently training in Mallorca so we included him in our line-up for the last Trofeo. He will be our trump card when it comes down to a bunch kick.”
DS Frison: Tim Wellens already won some Trofeos in the past, so he will for sure be our leader.
Thursday 31 January - Trofeo Ses Salines, Campos, Porreres, Felanitx (176.9 km)
Friday 1 February - Trofeo Andratx Lloseta (172.4 km)
Saturday 2 February - Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana (Soller - Deia) (143.9 km)
Sunday 3 February - Trofeo Palma (159.6 km)
Line-up Lotto Soudal (subject to change)
Trofeo Ses Salines, Campos, Porreres, Felanitx:
Sander Armée, Frederik Frison, Rasmus Byriel Iversen, Maxime Monfort, Brian Van Goethem, Tim Wellens and Enzo Wouters.
Trofeo Andratx - Lloseta
Sander Armée, Frederik Frison, Bjorg Lambrecht, Maxime Monfort, Lawrence Naesen, Harm Vanhoucke and Tim Wellens.
Trofeo de Tramuntana
Sander Armée, Bjorg Lambrecht, Maxime Monfort, Lawrence Naesen, Brian van Goethem, Harm Vanhoucke and Tim Wellens.
Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison, Rasmus Byriel Iversen, Bjorg Lambrecht, Lawrence Naesen, Brian van Goethem and Enzo Wouters.
Sports director: Herman Frison.