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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, July 5, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I quote others only in order the better to express myself. - Michel de Montaigne

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Lotto-Soudal riders look ahead to the Tour de France

The team sent me this:

This Saturday the 105th Tour de France begins with a sprint stage from Noirmoutier-en-l’-Île to Fontenay-le-Comte, the first of eight opportunities for the sprinters in La Grande Boucle. Today André Greipel and his lead-out Jasper De Buyst look ahead to the upcoming Tour, together with Marcel Sieberg and Jens Keukeleire who are also part of the Lotto Soudal sprint train.

André Greipel: “I had a different kind of season than other years as I wasn’t able to ride the Classics after my crash in Milan-Sanremo. But I did well in the races right after my comeback, with stage wins at Quatre Jours de Dunkerque and the Belgium Tour. I didn’t win recently, but the numbers tell me that I will be in top shape in July.”

“There will be plenty of sprint opportunities and we need to be ready for each one. Starting with the first day. The yellow jersey is at stake that day, but I’m not thinking about yellow; I’m thinking about stage wins and the sooner the better. I don’t think that in the first stages teams will want to create echelons because the Tour is still long at that point and it will already be nervous enough as it always is in the beginning of the Tour. But if echelons would be formed in one of the later stages that doesn’t scare us, we have a good team for it and we are always well organised.”

“Jasper De Buyst will be my lead-out man for the first time in the Tour. Jasper has a really good eye for positioning and he has the power to do a good lead-out. Thanks to his track history he has the skills to go a long way at a fast pace. The Tour will be a big step forward for him, and for sure he will learn a lot during those three weeks. I hope we can work well together and achieve success. The cooperation with Jasper and Marcel Sieberg has already worked out quite well. Jens Keukeleire will also be helping us in the sprint stages. The team around me is very well prepared. We can dictate a sprint on our own and don’t need to look to other teams.”

Andre Greipel

André Greipel hopes to strike this pose in the the Tour. Sirotti photo

Jasper De Buyst: “A first Tour de France is definitely something to look forward to. Each pro rider wants to ride the Tour, no matter how many times he has already participated, but I think your first Tour is the most special one. I am looking forward to every stage because the Tour will be one big adventure. The sprint stages will of course be important because I am the lead-out of André Greipel, but I am also eager to ride the stage to Alpe d’Huez to experience the unique atmosphere. My main goal is to make it to Paris. And of course I want to achieve as many beautiful results as possible with the team.”

“My long-term preparation didn’t run smoothly. I crashed pretty hard after the finish of the fifth stage of Quatre Jours de Dunkerque. And it took a while before I was fully recovered. More than a week later I competed in the Belgium Tour, but I was still in pain and I often had to undergo treatments from the physio. Afterwards I rode the Tour de Suisse and now I am at the level I had hoped to be ahead of the Tour. Since last year’s Giro I have become more and more the lead-out of André Greipel. The mutual trust has grown ever since. There’s often talked about the chaos in the Tour sprints, but for me it’s hard to judge that at the moment. Every sprint is hectic. Although it can always be more hectic and I also think the chaos starts earlier in the Tour, but that doesn’t scare me at all. I really hope we can take a sprint victory with André Greipel. In the other stages I will help the team too.  And if I see a chance to join a breakaway in one of the stages I will gladly do so.”

Marcel Sieberg: “I’m satisfied with the preparation I had. It was different than other years, with the Tour de Suisse instead of the Ster ZLM Toer. The course in Switzerland is of course much tougher than in the Netherlands, but it was good to already ride through the high mountains a few weeks before the Tour. Last week we did a recon of the ninth stage, the cobbled stage to Roubaix. I’m very much looking forward to that stage, because Paris-Roubaix is one of my favourite races. Of course it’s completely different to ride over the cobbles with a Tour peloton and it’s a much shorter distance than during the Spring Classic. Nonetheless, I hope I have good legs that day.”

“It will have been a good Tour for me when we have won at least one sprint stage with André Greipel and perhaps have claimed another stage win with one of the other teammates. And when everyone arrives safe and sound in Paris. Last year I got ill with five stages to go, I now want to make it to Paris again. When there’s a sprint stage I’m in charge of making sure no big breakaway is established, or that no dangerous riders or riders from sprint teams get away. The past years positioning has become more and more important at the Tour, instead of having a lined-up sprint train. Our sprint train has changed compared to previous years. But I have already ridden several races together with André Greipel and Jasper De Buyst and by now we know each other quite good. I’m confident that we can ride a good sprint as a team.”

Jens Keukeleire: “I can look back positively on my Tour preparation. Due to illness my spring season didn’t become what I had hoped it would, but afterwards it all went better. After the Tour de Romandie I went on altitude training camp to Andorra, together with Jelle Wallays. From then on I continuously got confirmation that I was on the right track. The hard work was rewarded with among other the overall victory of the Belgium Tour. The closer the Tour came, the more I felt my progression.”

“In the sprint stages I want to help André Greipel take the victory. It will be my job to bring Marcel Sieberg, Jasper De Buyst and André into the best possible position for the sprint. I also want to support the team in general, where and when necessary. And I will try to aim for a victory myself in a few stages. Of course I have marked the cobbled stage on day nine. I’m also interested in some transitional stages like the eighteenth stage for example. I’m very much looking forward to the Roubaix stage, but also to the team time trial next Monday. It would be wonderful to confirm our good performance of the Dauphiné (where the team finished third, LTS).”

New Belgian road champion Yves Lampaert on racing the Tour de France

This is from Lampaert's Quick-Step team:

We talked with the Belgian Champion about his most recent success and the expectations he has ahead of his Tour de France debut.

Yves, massive congrats on your new title as National Champion of Belgium. We would all like to know how the new jersey smells, feels and looks but first we need to get something straight. Is it true that you did judo and only began cycling when you were 17 years old?

Yes, that is true, I did judo and was quite good at it, actually. A very popular sport in my city, I started doing judo like many other kids when I was six years old. My mom knew someone who was also doing judo and thought it'd be good for me too.

And she was right because I became Belgian champion, my first national title, in fact. But after 11 years of combating on the floor, when I was 17 years old, I started with cycling. My first training was in January and I loved it so much that I left behind my black belt and never came back again. It was time to try something new, I thought.

Yves Lampaert

Yves Lampaert winning this year's Dwars Door Vlaanderen. Sirotti photo

But why cycling? It's very different from doing judo, isn't it?

When I was getting older, I started following my cousin who was a cyclist and became professional at Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise. I thought it was a cool sport and that I would like to try it as well, and that is how I started training on my bike from one day to the next. Judo is indeed very different from cycling but the training and sport had been good for my basic physical development.

Every year I got better and better, not too fast but steadily in my own tempo, listening to the precious advice from people in the sport, my trainers and sports directors. Wim Feys was my first sports director, whom I met when I joined the Quick-Step Floors training team in 2012.

Everybody around that team were really good guys who know a lot about cycling and still today do a lot for young riders. Within one year I turned pro with Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise, the team my cousin had also raced for and after two years I could take the next step up by signing a pro contract with Quick-Step.

So you came back to the team that gave you the chance when you were still very young but now on World Tour level. Was that the plan all along?

I don't know if it was the plan all along. I would rather call it a dream that came true. I had another possibility as well but in the end, Lefevere assured me that I should come to his team, which turned out to be the right decision, looking back at our shared journey that started in 2015.

What does this team represent and mean for you?

I know, I am probably not the only one who thinks so but it's really nice that we are able to do a good race on almost every parcours. For a classics rider, who likes the cobblestones and tough conditions of the spring, just like myself, it is a dream and an honour to ride for Quick-Step Floors because there is so much proven success, history and experience that you couldn't find anywhere else.

But the most important thing for me is how we are always fighting together as a team. If it is a small or big race, it doesn't matter, we want to win, together! That is really the true spirit and something I always repeat when people ask me about the mentality and life within the pack - and I think that is why I feel so much at home here.

Last year, you had what many would probably see as a breakthrough season, winning Dwars door Vlaanderen, the National ITT title and a Grand Tour stage at the Vuelta a España. Did you experience it as a breakthrough as well?

I don't know if I would call a breakthrough winning those races. I think I came through as a loyal worker who had the level to win as well as improving step by step. I had earned the respect from the leaders because of all the hard work I did for them and the team. It paid off, as they gave me the chance to become one of the leaders of the team.

So it is not just because I won some races that I would call it a breakthrough but rather because of all the hard work I did for the team that paid off.

Talking about winning... You have been part of the most successful team since 2015, especially this season has been amazing until now. Can you describe how has been the ride?

Yeah, it has really been an awesome period! At the moment, I don't really realize what we have achieved in this season. Times flies by so fast and we are doing really well in almost every race so you don't actually think too much about what happened, you just continue on to the next goals, staying focused at all times.

If it wasn't going so well, I think you would think more about the situation. We are all trying to enjoy it but maybe we will appreciate it more when we'll look back one day or if things weren't going so well. The thing is, we want to get the most out of it, making this season legendary, which is why we continue!

Yves, less than two weeks ago, you made yourself legendary by winning the national road race of Belgium. Did you realize it yet?

To be honest, it has not sunk in at all. I am overexcited about the jersey and feel so proud and happy knowing I will represent my country with it over the next year, around the world.

But for the moment it is difficult to understand, it will probably sink in when I am on the start line wearing my new jersey. What I have enjoyed the most since that day is seeing and meeting all those people who are so happy on my behalf, congratulating me and wishing me good luck – an overwhelming experience.

Did you have any time to enjoy this moment?

After the race, I enjoyed it with the team, sponsors, friends and family – and then I had a celebration ceremony in my home town with flowers and everything. It is a really special experience that I will forever remember. But there is not much time to rest on the laurels as my next big appointment is coming up in July.

You said it yourself. How excited are you to be racing in July in what will be your first-ever Tour de France and wearing the tricolour?

It is the greatest Grand Tour of the three with the presence of all the best riders in the world. Wearing the Belgian national jersey through France will be very special and I can't wait to hear all the Belgian people who always line up along the French roads cheering for the peloton when it passes by.

Personally, I look to the whole thing and hope we can leave our mark on this Tour as one of the most successful teams. We will hunt stages with Fernando and try to win as many stages as possible by giving the maximum of ourselves every day. The team time trial will of course be really special as it is a discipline I love and have been World Champion in, in 2016 with Quick-Step Floors, and the same goes for the cobbles on stage 9 leading to Roubaix.

Apart from this, it will be a lot of fun with the team, staff and riders, so three weeks in the best #TheWolfpack company. Everybody is super motivated and ready to make this Tour something we will never forget!

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