With the Omloop het Nieuwsblad (1.WT) and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (1.HC), the Belgian cycling season will kick off this weekend. On Wednesday Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team explored the last 130 kilometers of the Belgian opening classics.
For our first UCI WorldTour race of the season sports directors Hilaire Van der Schueren and Steven De Neef count on Frederik Backaert, Jérôme Baugnies, Aimé De Gendt, Tom Devriendt, Wesley Kreder, Xandro Meurisse and Loïc Vliegen. For Meurisse the Omloop means his debut in the race. Timothy Dupont, Ludwig De Winter, Andrea Pasqualon, Boris Vallée and Pieter Vanspeybrouck will join the team for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday.
Hilaire Van der Schueren (sports director):
"I think we have a very homogeneous team taking on this weekend, without a real leader. Loïc Vliegen is not yet in top shape. It was our intention for Loïc to be our leader, but he struggled a little bit over the past few weeks and is still bearing the consequences. He will start Omloop in order to grow further in the preseason. But in terms of team depth we should be able to score."
"It is our intention to certainly send someone in the breakaway. Jérôme Baugnies is one of the those riders who could do that. If he has a good day he could play a role deep into the final. He already showed that in Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year. "
"Frederik Backaert had a difficult start into the season. But I see him improving from day to day and he is also very hungry for the Omloop. Tom Devriendt gave a good impression on the recon and our newcomer Aimé De Gendt rode a very consistent preseason. "
"On Sunday they predict bad weather for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but I count on Timothy Dupont in the sprint. Last year he already rode top 10. Maybe our fast Italian Andrea Pasqualon could surprise in Kuurne. "
"I expect the race to really start on the Katteberg. Before that it is mainly broad road towards Oudenaarde. From the Katteberg I expect the race to never slow down no more. After that, there are actually no more recuperation sections in the race. The slopes and cobblestones succeed one another at a high pace."
"There are a number of places where we could anticipate. Anticipating also seems to be the best motto for our team on Saturday. In the final I do not expect that many riders will remain in the front. "
"My shape is improving. In Tour de la Provence I suffered hard. But in Volta Algarve I already felt a lot better, especially uphill. On the recon I felt that my condition is good. I kinda like these weather conditions. If I can still recuperate for two more days, I should be fully fit and competitive for the Omloop. "
Omloop het Nieuwsblad (1.WT): Frederik Backaert, Jérôme Baugnies, Aimé De Gendt, Tom Devriendt, Wesley Kreder, Xandro Meurisse, Loïc Vliegen
Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (1.HC): Tom Devriendt, Ludwig De Winter, Timothy Dupont, Wesley Kreder, Andrea Pasqualon, Boris Vallée, Pieter Vanspeybrouck