Sports director Mario Aerts explains Vuelta line-up


From Saturday 24 August onwards, Sander Armée, Thomas De Gendt, Carl Fredrik Hagen, Tomasz Marczyński, Tosh Van der Sande, Brian van Goethem, Harm Vanhoucke and Jelle Wallays will represent Lotto Soudal in the three-week Vuelta a España. Last year, Lotto Soudal animated the final Grand Tour of the season with numerous attacks, which were eventually rewarded with a stage victory for Jelle Wallays and the mountains jersey for Thomas De Gendt. Sports director Mario Aerts explains Lotto Soudal’s Vuelta line-up and the ambitions for this year.

Mario Aerts: “With this team of attackers, the goal is again to join breakaways in order to obtain stage victories, something four riders within our line-up already did. Carl Fredrik Hagen will be at the start of his first Grand Tour - which he will ride without any pressure to perform - but races like Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné have proven that Carl is not the kind of rider that  rapidly cracks. In this respect, Carl will be granted all the freedom to see how far he can go in the general classification.”

“It is not always the case that - compared to other Grand Tours - the Vuelta offers more chances for the escapees. The 2017 edition - in which we took home four stage wins - was an excellent Vuelta for attackers. On paper, it looks like there are enough possibilities this year, but a lot depends on the list of participants, how the race unfolds, how long sprinters can hang on during the tough stages,... The course difficulty of this year’s Vuelta is comparable to the one of previous editions. There will already be a lot of clarity, GC-wise, on the second rest day, both stage fifteen and sixteen are relatively short but really hard.”

Sander Armée took a stage victory in 2017. He never loses heaps of time in the mountain stages and he is the kind of rider that gets better by racing hard, every day. He is able to obtain a nice overall result, but the main goal for Sander will be to aim for another stage win. For Thomas De Gendt, the Vuelta will be his third Grand Tour of the year. After some rest following the Tour de France, he again built up towards the Vuelta , so we will have to wait and see whether Thomas is already in good shape during the first week or if he will get up to speed during the second or third week. A rider like Thomas De Gendt really needs no introduction, if the legs are good and if he sees some opportunities, he will for sure grab them with both hands.”

Jelle Wallays is again growing towards his best form after bad luck in the beginning of the season. He was already good at the ZLM Tour and he also went for a week of training at altitude after the Tour de Pologne. As a non-sprinter or non-climber, it is never easy to win a stage but Jelle will do everything he can to repeat last year’s exploit. Jelle knows how to win a race and is gradually building a nice palmarès. Tomasz Marczyński will again aim for success in the stages that contain a lot of altitude metres, with the same recipe that proved successful two years ago.”

“This year’s Vuelta includes a couple of finishes which - if they end in a sprint - suit Tosh Van der Sande really well, but he can also join a breakaway. We have to see how far Carl Fredrik Hagen can hang on uphill, but of course, Carl can be part of a break if there will be chances to do so. When Sander Armée went to the Vuelta with slight GC ambitions two years ago, he could eventually win a stage.”

“For climbers like Harm Vanhoucke, there aren’t too many ideal races in this period of the season and that is why Harm will make his Grand Tour debut in the Vuelta. It will be one big discovery and learning process for him. If he would be out of energy after ten days, he can of course quit. For Brian van Goethem, the Vuelta will definitely be a challenge but he is part of our line-up because of a clear goal. Every rider gets stronger by riding a Grand Tour and we hope Brian can reap the benefits during next year’s spring Classics. Brian did not race too much the past months, so he will be quite fresh. Moreover, the stages Jelle Wallays has marked, can also suit Brian.”