Top ten for Benoot and Wellens in Strade Bianche
Lotto Soudal-leaders animate the race.
Yesterday André Greipel and the members of his sprint train looked ahead to the Tour de France, which starts in two days. Today it are Tiesj Benoot, Thomas De Gendt, Tomasz Marczyński and Jelle Vanendert who talk about their ambitions and expectations.
Tiesj Benoot: “This will be my second Tour and I do feel differently than ahead of my Tour début last year. I now better know what to expect during those three weeks. That’s why I am now a bit more relaxed than I was a year ago.
“I had a good preparation. I wasn’t at my best level yet at the Dauphiné and of course I hope to reach my peak condition at the Tour. I am aiming for stage wins. Last year I was twentieth overall, but I am not targeting a good GC this year. For me a stage win at the Tour is worth more than let’s say a fifteenth place overall. I have marked two stages ahead of the first rest day: the sixth stage with finish on Mûr de Bretagne and the ninth stage to Roubaix. And in the first week it’s of course our ambition to win with André Greipel in the sprint. After the second rest day, when we head into the mountains, I will take it day by day to see what’s possible for me on the following stages.”
At the moment it’s not yet a goal to win the mountains classification, but that could become a goal.
Thomas De Gendt: “Last month I went to Italy, close to the Stelvio, for a few days of training at altitude. The day after I returned home, I took part in the Belgian Time Trial Championship and that went better than expected, with the second place as a result. During the road race three days later I felt good too. Although I did notice that I missed some race rhythm. In the first week of the Tour I’ll work for the team, because there are many sprint opportunities for André Greipel. During those stages I will get the race rhythm I lack. As of the second week I will try to join breakaways.”
“There are more riders in our team who want to aim for a stage win by going in a breakaway. And that’s a good thing, we can help each other out. Last year there was a few times a large front group of about fifty riders. Once I was the only Lotto Soudal rider in it and another time I had three teammates with me. The difference was huge. When you are alone, you need to respond to all attacks for example. Winning a stage is my first goal, but when I’m part of a break I will definitely try to grab as many KOM points as possible. At the moment it’s not yet a goal to win the mountains classification, but that could become a goal. I’ll see in the third week where I stand in that classification and if I still have a chance of winning the polka dot jersey or of finishing on top three of that classification, I will be more strategic in choosing which day I’ll go in the break, depending on the number of KOM points that are up for grabs. The past years I got third and second in the KOM classification, so I definitely have a chance of winning, but then everything needs to fall into place.”
Tomasz Marczyński: “It’s an amazing feeling to be riding my first Tour de France. I had to wait twenty years, from when I started cycling till this season, to be taking part in the Tour. This is a really special moment for me. I’ really appreciate this opportunity the team gives me and the fact that they believe enough in me to let me take part in the biggest race of the year. I will try to pay them back for this during the Tour. I have spent a lot of days at altitude to prepare myself. Before the Dauphiné I already went two weeks on an altitude training camp and afterwards another fortnight. It all went well and I have done everything I could to be in the best shape.”
“As always I’ll work for the team. I’m a complete rider and I can do my job on all kinds of terrains and in all types of stages. In the finales of the sprint stages I will try to keep the sprint train together. In other stages I could help Tiesj Benoot for example who is about to ride his second Tour. If there’s an opportunity I’m definitely going to try and fight for a stage win myself, like I did in last year’s Vuelta where I won two stages. If I could win one Tour stage I would be more than happy. I will definitely race attractively, as I always do. I have not yet looked at the stages, I always wait till I receive the road book. Then I check which stages would suit me. Still, I take the race day by day and wait how I feel, but I’ll do my best as I’m used to do.”
There are several reasons why I am back at the Tour after six years.
Jelle Vanendert: “There are several reasons why I am back at the Tour after six years. First of all because I had such a good spring season. Then there’s the fact that the sprint train has been adapted throughout the years. In the past, the team often chose to select six to seven riders for that sprint train. In the meantime positioning has become more and more important in the Tour sprints. Finally, because there have been more and more riders with a free role in the team’s line-up the past years.”
“I really want to win a stage myself. If I can help a teammate to a stage victory I will do that too of course. I can take my chance in all stages that aren’t flat. Certain finishes are of course best suited for me.”