Time trial victory for Wellens in Baloise Belgium Tour!
Bjorg Lambrecht on the podium of Critérium du Dauphiné to don the white jersey.
The Ruta del Sol is a five-day stage race of the Europe Tour, in which the peloton will ride across the Spanish region of Andalusia. It again promises to be a tough course with two uphill finishes, a time trial, a hard mountain stage and a flat stage to end with. There is something for everyone in this 65th edition. In 2018, Tim Wellens won this race and he also took a stage win. Along with sports director Bart Leysen, he gives his view on this race.
Tim Wellens: “I am fully recovered from the viral infection but the illness has taken a bit longer than expected. I could resume training after one week of complete rest. I will start the Ruta del Sol in good shape but I will certainly feel that week without training.”
“As I could not follow my planned training scheme for a week, the Ruta del Sol is – in contrast to last year – less of a goal in itself. Of course, I will go for the best possible result, but the kilometres in competition towards the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad are also a nice bonus. If the stage schedule allows it, I will do some post-race kilometres. I will target a nice place on GC but that goes hand in hand with good stage results.”
“The first stage will immediately be important for the general classification. It finishes in Alcalá de los Gazules, where I won last year, so that will certainly bring up some nice memories. The individual time trial will be crucial as well. I am looking forward to my first race against the clock as I have been working on my time trial skills. I hope those efforts will pay off. The penultimate stage includes a considerably long climb but – contrary to the pure climbers – the finish after a long descent is in my favour.”
Bart Leysen, sports director Lotto Soudal: “The Ruta del Sol is an excellent race to prepare for the spring Classics. Both the Flemish opening weekend and Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico are goals for us. That does not mean we only go to Andalusia to prepare us. Tim Wellens has taken stage victories here as well as the general classification. Therefore we travel to Spain with certain ambitions. With Tim as leader, the task division is quite easy. Two weeks ago, he still had a viral infection which caused him to miss the Étoile de Bessèges, but I expect that this won’t be an issue anymore. The rest of the team supports him, although there will be days to show something themselves.”
“Most of the stages suit Tim. The first stage finishes where he won last year, so he knows that specific finish really well. It is an adapted version though, because the course in advance is totally different. Still, everything will become clear in those decisive two or three kilometres. The chances of a new overall win are real, but the situation now is totally different. Last year, Tim won the fourth stage and had to defend his leader’s jersey against the clock on the closing day. This year, that time trial is not at the end but already on the third day, followed by the hardest stage. If Tim wins again in Alcalá de los Gazules, we need to control the race in the next days and try to maintain our leading position until after day four.”
“Of course there is always fierce competition in the Ruta del Sol. Movistar is attending with a united block, where two or three people could go for the general classification. Last year, it was Team Sky that controlled the whole race. We have strong riders at the start as well, but it will be important that they do not become too nervous or counter each attack. The situation on the moment itself will indicate for us what to do or not."
Stage 1 Wednesday 20 February: Sanlúcar de Barrameda – Alcalá de los Gazules (170.5 km)
Stage 2 Thursday 21 February: Sevilla - Torredonjimeno (216.5 km)
Stage 3 Friday 22 February: Mancha Real – La Guardia de Jaén (ITT) (16.3 km)
Stage 4 Saturday 23 February: Armilla - Granada (119.9 km)
Stage 5 Sunday 24 February: Otura – Alhaurín de la Torre (163.9 km)
Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tomasz Marczyński, Rémy Mertz, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert, Harm Vanhoucke, Tim Wellens and Enzo Wouters.
Sports directors: Bart Leysen and Kevin De Weert.