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"Now I want to confirm myself but that is always the hardest. I have already been in the finale of the Omloop a few times and on Saturday I want to be there again and try to go for the victory," Roelandts says

Photo: Sirotti

JURGEN ROELANDTS

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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OMLOOP HET NIEUWSBLAD

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28.02.2014 @ 13:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Last year Jurgen Roelandts finished 3rd in the Tour of Flanders and now he is back in the Flemish classics as he looks to confirm his great potential for the hard races. With a perfect winter behind him, the Belgian is confident that he will be able to go for the win in Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

 

Jurgen Roelandts has long been known as one of the next great Belgian classics riders but it wasn't until last year that he revealed the true extent of his potential. By anticipating the expected attack from big favourites Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan, he took a beautiful 3rd place in the Tour of Flanders in what is so far his career highlight.

 

That result will make him a marked man when the Belgian classics season kicks off on Saturday with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Roelandts will again be the undisputed leader of the Lotto Belisol team and will carry the weight of expectations for one of the two big home teams.

 

However, he feels ready for the challenge.

 

"I have had a flawless winter and I am ready for my role," he told Sporza. "I am as good as I wanted and I think the team is ready for it. So I look forward to the race.

 

"This year I have again taken a step up," he added. "Now I want to confirm myself but that is always the hardest. I have already been in the finale of the Omloop a few times and on Saturday I want to be there again and try to go for the victory."

 

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad may be an important race but Roelandts' biggest objectives are yet to come.

 

"From next weekend I want to peak and then I want to ride at a high level from Tirreno to Paris-Roubaix," he said. "If I can win something in between, it will have been a successful spring season.

 

On Wednesday, the Lotto Belisol team checked the revised course for the race but Roelandts already knows the Flemish races perfectly, meaning that the recon served another purpose for the team leader.

 

"First and foremost we wanted to get used to riding on the cobbles, test the bikes and ride away the heavy legs from Qatar," he said." The feeling was not great but after two days of rest I am hopefully good during the race.

 

Lotto Belisol have had a highly successful season start that has included 6 wins for André Greipel. Roelandts hopes to carry that momentum into the weekend where he will again ride in the service of Greipel in Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

 

"So far we have achieved our goals," he said. "The morale is good. The whole team is in good form. Both Saturday and Sunday, we have a strong team. Alongside Omega Pharma-Quick Step, we are the team to beat."

 

A course recon

On Wednesday the Lotto Belisol riders did a recon of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The material was tested one last time and the course was thoroughly scrutinized. Nine Lotto Belisol riders took part in the ride. Non-Belgians Marcel Sieberg and Lars Bak stayed one more day in their home country after their return from the Tour of Oman. Vegard Breen and Kris Boeckmans accompanied the team and used the recon as a training for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and also Kenny Dehaes, who lives in the neighbourhood, joined the group.

The team rode about 125 kilometers. They left at the hotel in Melle and via Zottegem they accessed Saturday's course. The team covered the cobbles of the Haaghoek twice and left the loop around Geraardsbergen for what it was. Then Lotto Belisol set pace towards the final and did a recon of the Kruisberg, Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Wolvenberg, Leberg and Molenberg. Afterwards the cobbles of the Paddestraat, Lippenhovestraat and Lange Munte lay on the route. After about four hours on the bike the entire team returned to the hotel.

"The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad stays a real classic," sports director Herman Frison said. "Because of the succession of hills and cobblestones this edition will be an elimination again. From the second passage on the Haaghoek we have to be in front. Then there are a series of hills with among other the quartet Kruisberg, Taaienberg, Eikenberg and Wolvenberg. The Lange Munte will be crucial again. But because of the renewal of this last cobblestone section you can ride much more smoothly over them. If there is some wind on Saturday, that can also play a role but we have to wait and see for that.

"Most riders in the selection raced abroad the past weeks. To get back the feeling on the cobbles this recon was worthwhile. Thanks to this ride everybody knows the dangerous points and where one has to be in front in the run-up to the hills and cobbles. After the recon the riders visited the physiotherapist and then went home. From Thursday the riders will come together in the Van der Valk team hotel in Oostkamp and they can prepare the Belgian opening weekend in peace and quiet."

 

"The opening weekend is very important for a Belgian team," Frison added. "Our priorities come later but hopefully we will have a great weekend. The scenario is the same every year. After the Kruisberg the race opens up. Now there are more cobblestones and that makes the finale a bit trickier. There are fewer opportunities for recovery  so I expect that the strongest riders will come forward.

 

"He [Roelandts] is our leader. He lives here and has always been good in the opening weekend. I am convinced that he is ready. His preparation was excellent, now he has to deliver. Usually, there is no big difference between winning and losing but hopefully Jurgen can aim for the win."

 

Due to injury, Gert Dockx is uncertain for the race and may be replaced by Kenny Dehaes.

 

You can read our preview of the race here.

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