Benoot and Wellens, leaders for Il Lombardia
Preview of Milan-Turin, GranPiemonte and Il Lombardia
This Sunday the Amstel Gold Race will take place, the first of three WorldTour Ardennes Classics. The race of almost 263 kilometres contains 35 hills, including three ascents of the Cauberg. Since last year the Cauberg is no longer the last hill in the race. The Amstel ends with a local lap of 15.7 kilometres with the Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg, that last hill at seven kilometres from the finish. Lotto Soudal leaders Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot both hope for an animated race.
Tim Wellens: “The Brabantse Pijl was a very good rehearsal, even though it wasn’t a WorldTour race and there were not as much potential winners. But it was a confirmation of my form and it feels always good to win. By moving the finish of the Amstel a few years ago, it has become a race that is more appealing to attackers and that’s even more the case since the last ascent of the Cauberg is skipped. The last loop of about fifteen kilometres underwent some changes too, we will now ride over narrower roads. That’s also an advantage for escapees. If Tiesj or I want to have a chance of winning, then it’s best that we get a hard race with a small group that battles for victory at the end or we need to finish solo.”
After Strade Bianche you could say my spring is already a success, but I would love to set a top result in the Ardennes Classics.
Tiesj Benoot: “I’ve been in a good shape since the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad seven weeks ago. I’m still having fun. I went on a training camp to Sierra Nevada after the Ronde and I felt good at Brabantse Pijl. The few days extra rest should make that I perform even better at the Amstel. When I rode the Amstel for the first time, two years ago, I had to abandon early in the race because of the consequences of my crash at the Ronde. Last year I rode well, but because of a puncture just before the Fromberg I got distanced from the group that battled for third place. But last year’s edition proved that the race suits me.”
“After winning Strade Bianche, you could say my spring is already a success. I claimed several top results in the Cobblestone Classics, but I would love to set a top result in the Ardennes Classics too. Next to Strade Bianche, the Amstel might well be the race with the highest number of top riders at the start, as it is also a mix of Classics riders such as Naesen, Sagan, Terpstra, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet on the one hand and climbers such as Kwiatkowski, Nibali and Valverde on the other. There are a lot of podium candidates. I hope for an open and hard race, in which the riders don’t wait too long.”
Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Nikolas Maes, Tomasz Marczyński, Marcel Sieberg, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.
Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Herman Frison.