WorldTeam Wellens and Degenkolb to lead Lotto Soudal at the Ronde
“The Ronde is one of the most important appointments on the Belgian cycling calendar”, begins Tim Wellens. “Of course there are three big favourites, but especially in a race like De Ronde, there’s so much that can happen along the way and that’s why it is dangerous to indicate a winner beforehand. The Ronde is an open, but very honest race in which the strongest riders always come out on top. Just like in other races, you also need a bit of luck in the Ronde, because crashes or mechanicals are never far away.”
On Sunday 4 April, the Tour of Flanders forms the traditional apotheosis of the Flemish spring Classics. In the second Monument of the cycling season, the riders will face no less than nineteen hills and seven cobbled sections between the start in Antwerp and the finish in Oudenaarde. The 254-kilometre course has been slightly modified but the iconic hills such as Koppenberg, Oude Kwaremont (three ascents) and Paterberg (two ascents) remain the major obstacles of the 105th Ronde van Vlaanderen.
“If, during the race, you feel you’re not amongst the best riders of the bunch, it’s best to anticipate. In Dwars door Vlaanderen, I felt good and the team showed its aggressive style of racing. That resulted in a nice fifth place for Tosh. I feel that I am still lacking a little bit to be at my best, but hopefully I will have that extra bit of power on Sunday. John Degenkolb is also in good shape, which definitely is an additional asset for the team. We need to show ourselves during the race and hopefully, I will be there in the final together with John and maybe a few teammates”, Tim Wellens concludes.
John Degenkolb: “Yesterday, I did a four-hour training ride on the course, behind the motorcycle. On some of the hills, I did some nice efforts. Not on all of them of course, because that would be a bit too much. But it certainly was a nice day out and the legs felt quite fine. If I can be at the start on Sunday with the same feeling, I will definitely be up there in the Ronde.”
Also sports director Herman Frison told us his pre-race thoughts: “The Ronde truly is a unique race and has no equal in the series of Flemish spring races. Nine times out of ten, the strongest rider in the race also takes the victory. In a final which includes amongst others the Koppenberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, the best riders always come to the fore.”
“I expect that the teams of the favourites will want to control the race, but there are many other teams that will want to go on the attack early in the race and anticipate the moves of the top contenders. This is also the case for Lotto Soudal. We want to attack and not wait until, let’s say the Koppenberg. From the start in Antwerp – and not only in the hill zone – we need to be attentive.”
“John Degenkolb and Tim Wellens will be our protected riders for Sunday. The five other guys need to attack and grasp the opportunities if they come. If that’s not the case, they will have the task of bringing John and Tim into the best possible position towards the crucial sections”, concludes Herman Frison.
Line-up Lotto Soudal: John Degenkolb, Frederik Frison, Roger Kluge, Tosh Van der Sande, Brent Van Moer, Florian Vermeersch and Tim Wellens.
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