WorldTeam Lotto Soudal ready for WorldTour triptych in Flanders
With the Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne on Wednesday, the E3 Saxo Bank Classic on Friday and Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, three WorldTour races on Flemish soil are scheduled for Lotto Soudal this week.
Royal sprint in De Panne?
From 2018, the Driedaagse De Panne became a one-day Classic. This over 200 kilometres long WorldTour race mainly favours the sprinters although several passages through the always windy and notorious ‘Moeren’ could raise the tension in the bunch. However, sports director Nikolas Maes expects a royal sprint in De Panne.
“An important three races are coming up this week where we again want to show ourselves as a team and also obtain some nice results. At Brugge-De Panne, we will mainly focus on a sprint with our youngster Arnaud De Lie. With the many experienced sprinters at the start, he can gain some valuable experience. Of course, Caleb Ewan not being part of our line-up is a pity but this doesn’t necessarily change our tactics. Now we have to execute our plans with Arnaud instead of Caleb. You never know but I think the chance of echelons being formed is minimal because everyone knows where it can happen and there’s also not much wind forecasted.”
Mini Tour of Flanders on Friday
The E3 Saxo Bank Classic is traditionally seen as the dress rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders next week. In just over 200 kilometres, the peloton will face seventeen climbs and five cobbled sections in the Flemish Ardennes. The iconic duo Paterberg-Oude Kwaremont at around 40 kilometres from the finish will undoubtedly be the start of an exciting final.
Nikolas Maes: “At the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, we will mainly be targeting a nice result with Victor Campenaerts, but we also have several other strong guys who can take their opportunities. We have a solid team at the start but due to some riders not being able to race because of illness, we had to make some choices. Like Florian Vermeersch deliberately not riding E3 but rather saving forces for Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. I expect the E3 – one of the hardest spring Classics – to unfold traditionally with a first big acceleration on the Taaienberg. Afterwards, the Paterberg will form a second crucial point in the race.”
In Flanders Fields battlegrounds on Sunday
The longest event of the week will be on Sunday, with 250 kilometres of racing at Gent-Wevelgem. With several hills like Kemmelberg, unpaved ‘Plugstreets’ and exposed roads where the wind has a free reign, the riders face multiple obstacles.
“Gent-Wevelgem offers nice opportunities for our riders. Unfortunately, we will miss Caleb Ewan at the start but we will compensate this with other guys. Although it’s ten kilometres shorter compared to last year, it still remains a really hard Classic. Besides, the race can take an unexpected turn on the many flat roads. For our sprinter Arnaud De Lie, such a hard and long race will be all about learning but no doubt he will be really motivated as well”, concludes sports director Nikolas Maes.
Line-up Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne : Jasper De Buyst, Arnaud De Lie, Sébastien Grignard, Michael Schwarzmann, Rüdiger Selig, Brent Van Moer and Florian Vermeersch.
Line-up E3 Saxo Bank Classic: Cedric Beullens, Victor Campenaerts, Frederik Frison, Sébastien Grignard, Michael Schwarzmann, Rüdiger Selig and Brent Van Moer.
Line-up Gent-Wevelgem: Cedric Beullens, Victor Campenaerts, Jasper De Buyst, Arnaud De Lie, Frederik Frison, Brent Van Moer and Florian Vermeersch.