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" I want to do well in Milan-Sanremo. It is a very special race which I really liked in 2012, I felt fine until I crashed with Gilbert at the Cipressa. I have said that I want to perform better," Vanendert tells La Dernierne Heure

Photo: Sirotti






14.12.2013 @ 18:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jelle Vanendert had a terrible 2013 season and was hampered by a parasite throughout most of the year. The Belgian has now recovered from his health issues and is targeting the Milan-Sanremo which will be held on a much tougher course in 2014.


In 2011 the entire cycling world saw the extent of Jelle Vanendert's talent when the Belgian won the big mountain stage to Plateau de Beille in the Tour de France and went on to wear the polka-dot jersey for several days. Alongside Philippe Gilbert, he formed a dangerous duo and when Gilbert joined BMC, Vanendert stepped into a leadership role at Lotto Belisol.


He confirmed his talents in 2012 when he finished in the top 10 in all the Ardennes classics and even got close to the win in the Amstel Gold Race where he was beaten into 2nd by Enrico Gasparotto in a close sprint. All was set for more glory in 2013 but the year ended up a complete disaster for the Belgian Ardennes specialists.


Due to illness, he was forced to leave his most important preparation race for the classics, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, prematurely and failed to reach his best form for the biggest one-day races. He hoped to bounce back for the Tour de France but missed the event when he was diagnosed with a parasite in his intestines. He planned to make amends in the final part of the season but failed to show anything in the Vuelta a Espana before abandoning the race.


The poor performances prompted him to accept a lower salary when he extended his contract last week. In exchange for an additional year on the team, the Belgian accepted to be paid less as he tries to reestablish himself as one of the world's leading classics riders.


In 2014, the Milan-Sanremo will be held on a much tougher course, with the addition of the Pompeiana climb expected to tip the balance away from the sprinters. Riders like Philippe Gilbert, Vincenzo Nibali and even Chris Froome have already said that they plan to give the Italian classic a short and as a real Ardennes specialist, Vanendert has chosen the race as the event where he wants to prove that he is back to his best.


"Yes, I feel much better, especially on the bike where I have found my power again," he told La Derniere Heure. "I have done a lot of training and I will start the races earlier than last year at the Tour de San Luis. I want to do well in Milan-Sanremo. It is a very special race which I really liked in 2012, I felt fine until I crashed with Gilbert at the Cipressa. I have said that I want to perform better. It is not an easy race, very technical and very long, almost 300km. In such a race, an extra climb will do a lot and I think it will suit me.


"It is a really special race because it is very difficult to handle the tactical aspects. You cannot afford to make a mistake, to be too much in the wind when you ride along the sea. Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen are both made for this race but they have never won it. It says a lot."


Lotto Belisol is a team with few stars and many domestiques and so much is expected from their captains. While Andre Greipel and Jurgen Roelandts both enjoyed lots of success, Vanendert and Jurgen Van Den Broeck were held back by health issues.


Vanendert admits that it was a tough mental challenge.


"When the parasite slowed me down, it was not easy to handle," he said. "After my stage win in the 2011 Tour de France and with my results being better than anticipated, expectations were high. But I think it is easier to have a fracture than to suffer from a parasite that nobody can see. Sometimes I had the impression that people felt that I had no issues. I had to take antibiotics but it was not simple. It took a while to find the reason. And even though I hoped to return at the Vuelta a Espana, the doctor warned me that it would take more time, that I would have to wait until 2014. He was right."


Vanendert hasn't won a race since his 2011 Tour stage win.



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