Benoot and Wellens preview Il Lombardia


Coming Saturday, the 113th edition of Il Lombardia - the fifth and final Monument of the cycling season - takes place. Between the start in Bergamo and finish in Como, 243 demanding kilometres await, with iconic ascents along the way such as Madonna del Ghisallo, the feared Muro di Sormano and the climb to Civiglio. Once the riders reach the summit of San Fermo della Battaglia - the final climb of the day - only five kilometres remain to the finish at Lake Como.

The ‘Classic of the Falling Leaves’ will be the final outing in Lotto Soudal shirt for Tiesj Benoot. The 25-year-old Belgian wants to say goodbye with a nice result. Tim Wellens finished fifth last year but a crash during Milano-Torino disrupted his preparation for Il Lombardia. Brent Van Moer suffers too much from his crash at Tre Valli Varesine past Tuesday and will be replaced by the Norwegian Carl Fredrik Hagen.

Tiesj Benoot: “The fourth place at Milano-Torino brought me a lot of confidence as it was an uphill showdown between most of the favourites for Saturday, except from Roglič, who did not participate. I was pleasantly surprised by my performances and it is nice to end the season like this. The main goal of this Italian week remains Il Lombardia, but I also wanted to show myself during the past two races. I mainly expected to be up there at Tre Valli Varesine, but that also succeeded on the tough and steep course of Milano-Torino, which is positive sign.”

“I obtained my best result at Il Lombardia so far last year, when I finished 25th. However, I have never been at the start in a better shape than this year. So, I am very curious and I am really looking forward to it. If I want to battle with the best in races like Il Lombardia, I need to be at my very best, and Milano-Torino has learned me that I’m not too far from that level. I have never raced for a top result in Lombardy before, but I hope to be up there this year.”

“In my opinion, the Muro di Surmano won’t be the decisive point of the race, but it will be used to make a first selection. Contrary to my previous participations, I hope to survive that selection. Afterwards, there is a long section alongside Lake Como, where there are some possibilities - if there won’t be many teammates around - to try something myself. Often, the race is decided on the Civiglio. The riders who can follow the pace there, also won’t be dropped later on, I think.  On such a hard course, team tactics won’t be of crucial importance; it is the hardest Classic and most of all, the legs will do the talking.”

“Saturday will be my final race for Lotto Soudal and of course, I am really motivated to close the chapter in a beautiful way, but I am mainly focused on the race itself. Most of all, I’m happy that, during my final race in Lotto Soudal shirt, I will be at the start with good legs. Hopefully, it will also bring a good result.”

I have never raced for a top result in Lombardy before, but I hope to be up there this year.

Tim Wellens: “I already finished fourth and fifth in the past, but I doubt whether the specific course is the reason for that. During this period of the year, everybody is tired and the difference is made through motivation, and I am always motivated for Il Lombardia. Unfortunately, preparations didn’t go to plan with the crash during Milano-Torino, but I felt good at Tre Valli Varesine. Last year, I fell just short of being able to follow the best riders, but in my opinion, I think I did a good race. So, I hope to, at least, match my performance of last year. Tiesj and I maybe did not quite play out the team advantage really well on Tuesday, but the Giro di Lombardia is so hard that team tactics won’t be crucial.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal Il Lombardia: Sander Armée, Tiesj Benoot, Carl Fredrik Hagen, Tomasz Marczyński, Rémy Mertz, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.

Sports director: Bart Leysen.