Gran Fondo world champion Marie Dessart makes road début at Lotto Soudal
"This is a dream come true."
After De Brabantse Pijl of past Wednesday three Ardennes Classics are scheduled for the women: Amstel Gold Race (15/04), Flèche Wallonne (18/04) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (22/04). Kelly Van den Steen (22) has been looking forward to this part of the season. How did she prepare for the upcoming races?
Kelly Van den Steen: “I went to the Ardennes last week for a training camp, in the weekend we had a training with the team. The day after the Ronde van Vlaanderen I left for the Ardennes. On Monday I had to ride on the rollers because the weather was too bad, but on Tuesday and Wednesday I did two long trainings, Tuesday one of four and a half hours and Wednesday one of three hours. Thursday I took some rest. On Friday I did one last individual training and in the weekend I did a recon with the team.”
“Past Wednesday I took part in De Brabantse Pijl. I was always riding at the front of the bunch. I had a mechanical once, but I could easily return to the front. I really had a good day and I tried several times to join a breakaway. The race finished with a sprint of a reduced peloton. I was a bit too far, but at the end a few riders lost speed and I got eleventh. That’s a result I can be satisfied with, just like with my current shape.”
The training camp has given me confidence that I can achieve a nice result in the Ardennes Classics.
Last weekend the Lotto Soudal Ladies did a recon of the Ardennes Classics. On Saturday that was on the course of the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, on Sunday on that of the Amstel Gold Race. Kelly tells what she has learned from it.
Kelly Van den Steen: “On Saturday we started on top of the Mur de Huy and then we did a recon of the finale of Flèche Wallonne. That finale is the same as last year. I learned more from riding on the roads of the first part of the course on which we rode when we were heading towards the course of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. That first part of the course is different than last year. It are large roads, where there can be much wind and that means a danger of echelons. It’s useful that we have seen it. Then we moved on to the Vecquée, the first hill of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, for a recon of the last sixty kilometres of that race. It’s always good to refresh your memory.”
“We did a recon of the entire course of the Amstel Gold Race; the run-up from Maastricht and the local lap. There’s nothing new to tell about that. Thanks to the recon we could see again where it’s important to ride at the front. The Amstel will be the most difficult race of the three for me because the hills are shorter and steeper and we ride over narrow roads. I prefer the longer hills of the Walloon Classics. Although I finished around the thirtieth place in last year’s Amstel Gold Race, at a relative short distance (Kelly was 31st, at 3’36” of Anna van der Breggen, LTS). I hope I can follow as long as possible on Sunday. I learned last year that I need to be aware of the wind, I won’t let me taken by surprise a second time. I hope to maintain a good position at the front and I might try to join a breakaway.”
Kelly Van den Steen is about to participate in Flèche Wallonne for the fourth time, the previous editions she got 65th, 59th and 35th. Also in the Amstel and Liège-Bastogne-Liège she finished on top forty last year, as 31st and 38th respectively. What are her ambitions for this year’s Ardennes Classics?
Kelly Van den Steen: “The training camp has given me confidence that I can achieve a nice result in the Ardennes Classics. I hope I will benefit from the training camp. I find it important to get in the climbing rhythm before riding the Ardennes Classics. At this time of the year I always go on a training camp to the Ardennes. I had a good feeling uphill last week and I hope for the same feeling in the races.”
“I want to set a better result in the Ardennes Classics than last year. It’s difficult to put an exact place on it, but I’ll be satisfied when I finish close to riders of the same level. I can’t expect to be battling with top riders such as van der Breggen, but when I notice that I have set a step forward compared to last year then the Ardennes Classics will be a success.”
“I am very happy that we ride these three Ardennes Classics, although it’s hard to ride them all in the same week; but actually I can cope with that pretty well. It’s also nice that we ride on the same day as the men, that’s good for the publicity. These are races I watched on TV when I was younger and I am really happy that I can ride them now myself.”
Line-up Amstel Gold Race: Isabelle Beckers, Demi de Jong, Anabelle Dréville, Puck Moonen, Julie Van De Velde and Kelly Van den Steen.