An individual time trial of 26,8 km, with start in Bad Ragaz, closed the Tour de Suisse. There had to be climbed today as well, because the finish was on the Flumserberg and that meant an average gradient of 9% in the final 10 kilometers. Rui Costa set the best time and snatched the overall victory away from the Swiss Mathias Frank, who was leading the GC since the third stage. The Portuguese Costa successfully defended his title.
Lotto Belisol finished this Tour de Suisse only with five of the eight riders. Fréderique Robert and Brian Bulgaç got ill. The fifth day also Jens Debusschere had to quit. He crashed 30 km from the end, finished the stage, but tests in hospital showed a fracture of the radius. His right arm will now be in plaster for three to four weeks. The day before his crash he became 8th in the sprint. Tosh Van der Sande also participated in the sprints, he just got back after an injury. In the fifth stage he became 12th and a day later he was 6th of the peloton, which meant a tenth place. The team went to Switzerland to search for a stage win and to get a good classification with Francis De Greef. He became 25th at 17'04".
Jean-Pierre Heynderickx, sports director: "The Tour de Suisse didn't bring us what we had expected, partly because of bad luck. De Greef didn't have enough power on the crucial points uphill and the opponents were very strong. Olivier Kaisen was in the escape in stage four, but he still has consequences of his crash in the Tour of Turkey. That's why he had to let go of his two companions. Tosh Van der Sande on the other hand made a very good comeback after the fracture of his collarbone, we were glad he could get back in competition so soon. Only a few days before the start he was given the all-clear and he immediately takes part in the sprints at the end. That definitely gives confidence for the Belgian national championship next week."
Four out of six early escapees could stay ahead in the final stage of the Ster ZLM Toer which started in Gerwen and finished in Boxtel. Pim Ligthart won the stage. The peloton was only a few meters behind. Because of a puncture for Theo Bos just before the final ten kilometers, there wasn't any support anymore from Blanco, so the peloton was too late. André Greipel won the group sprint. In the overall classification he's second behind Lars Boom. Greipel started with a tenth place in the prologue on Wednesday. Then he became two times second, each time just before Mark Cavendish. On the second day he finished behind the Dutchman Theo Bos, Friday Marcel Kittel was faster. The preparation for the sprint was disturbed that day because of a crash, Jürgen Roelandts was one of the riders involved.
The stage on Saturday was ridden in Belgium, from Verviers to La Gileppe. Adam Hansen animated the stage. The Australian rider of Lotto Belisol was part of a break of eight and he stayed ahead the longest. In 2010 he won that same stage. Greipel became sixth now, Lars Boom jumped away on the final climb and created a small gap. Besides a second place in GC, all these results yielded Greipel the points jersey as well. In the top ten of the GC Lotto Belisol has three riders. Marcel Sieberg became 7th, Jürgen Roelandts 9th. Sports director Bart Leysen is very satisfied about the team, but regrets there was no stage win.
Bart Leysen, sports director: "The team has worked well this race. André Greipel proved he's good. The results he set here are good for his confidence. Unfortunately there was no victory. But his sprints were strong and he ended before Cavendish in those sprints. Indeed, Marcel Kittel beat him once, and he'll meet him in the Tour as well, but yesterday he was dropped on the climb in the final."
"Because of the crash on Friday Jürgen Roelandts couldn't give everything in yesterday's stage, but luckily the damage isn't too bad. He's 9th in the overall classification, Sieberg 7th and Greipel 2nd and that shows the whole team is good. On top of that we take points, which is very important. We'll definitely be able to rely on our guys in the Tour, that's for sure."
Jens Debusschere crashed in the fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse. Thirty kilometers before the finish the riders had to get out of the way of a bus that was parked at the side of the road. They had to go through a smaller part of the road, braked and a crash followed. Debusschere finished the stage and went to hospital afterwards, where a fracture of his right radius was concluded. It's a clean and stable fracture. His arm will be in plaster for three to four weeks. In the meantime he will be able to train on the rolls if he lets his arm rest. It's too soon to say when Jens will get back in competition.
Jens Debusschere: "I can't change anything about it, unfortunately crashes are part of your life when you're a cyclist. I was riding in the middle of the peloton when someone of the organization gave a sign that there was an obstacle. Some riders braked and crashed. I couldn't go to the right or left anymore. I immediately felt something wasn't right, but decided to finish the stage because the consequences might possibly be not that bad. I will take complete rest the next few days and then I can already train on the rolls. That way I can maintain my condition."
Tomorrow the five days Ster ZLM Toer starts with a prologue of 8 kilometers in the streets of Goes. The third stage of this Dutch race from the Europe Tour takes place in Belgium. The start will be given in Verviers and the finish is in Jalhay. In this feisty stage Le Rosier and La Redoute are two of the hills that will be waiting for the riders. The day before they have to cover some famous Dutch hills like the Cauberg and Bemelerberg, these are all in the first half of the race. That's why there are possibly three chances for a bunch sprint.
For the sprints Lotto Belisol can rely on André Greipel. His train will lead him to the finishes. The Tour de France is coming closer, so this will be the last big test. Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel start as well; we'll have a battle between the top sprinters. No doubt that also the Dutchmen Theo Bos and Kenny van Hummel will join in.
Bart Leysen, sports director: "We go to the Ster ZLM Toer with our complete sprint train. The goal is to win a stage with André Greipel. That will be good for the confidence in the run-up to the Tour. The automatisms can be tested here. It's important to execute all steps in a race. Cavendish and Kittel will be there as well, so if Greipel wins that will be good for his morale."
"There is only one real tough stage, that is on Saturday. Jürgen Roelandts might take his chance there. But at the moment Greipel is that good, that he can play a role as well. Friday there are several hills in the beginning and middle of the stage, but the end is easy. It isn't sure if it will end with a group sprint."
Selection Lotto Belisol: Lars Bak, Gert Dockx, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg and Frederik Willems
Sports directors: Bart Leysen and Kurt Van de Wouwer
In the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, a stage of 155,5 km between Sisteron and Risoul, Tim Wellens was part of a long breakaway for the third time. Immediately after the start a front group of 24 was formed with the Spaniards Juan Antonio Flecha and Egoi Martinez. The leader in the mountain classification Thomas Damuseau, very eager in this race, couldn't be left out either. They never had more than 3'30" lead. After a climb of third category in the first half, two of first category were still to come. On the Col de Vars, with top at 36,5km from the finish, Tim Wellens took off with Alessandro De Marchi. Travis Meyer bridged the gap and started a solo. De Marchi came back in the front of the race later on the climb. Wellens returned in the descent, just like Losada and Quinziato.
The young Wellens didn't want to follow the high speed in the descent and got behind. On the final climb to Risoul - 13,9 km and 6,7% average gradient - he bridged the gap and started a solo! With nine kilometers to go the peloton was 2'30" behind. At 4,5 kilometers from the finish De Marchi caught up with Wellens and went ahead on his own. Although the group of favourites was coming closer, he would make it. Wellens was reeled in in the final kilometers by some GC-riders and became 13th. The 22-year-old Lotto Belisol rider has ridden a very strong Dauphiné. Chris Froome was second today and is the overall winner.
Lotto Belisol was a lot in the picture the past week and not only thanks to Tim Wellens. In stage three Sander Cordeel was in an escape for more than 150 km. Also Bart De Clercq showed himself, but he had to quit yesterday because of stomach problems. Thursday he had become 11th in the stage to Valmorel. That day Jurgen Van den Broeck had an off-day. He was ill and immediately took the necessary precautions. Yesterday he was part of a long break. Now he's going to the Sierra Nevada again for the final preparations in the run-up to the Tour.
Tim Wellens: "I was the first to attack today immediately after the start and then a front group of 24 was formed. The group was big, but still there was a very good cooperation. Meyer was remarkably faster on the Col de Vars and I had to let him go. In the descent I could come back. We were leading with five and the others were descending very fast and took risks. I didn't want to do that and lost a few meters. When I returned to the front on the final climb, I noticed the others were watching each other and decided to keep up my own tempo and was solo ahead."
"For a moment I believed I would win, but then the chasers were coming closer. This Dauphiné was much better than expected, I'm very pleased. My next race is the Belgian national championship in La Roche, it's a course that suits me and where I'm able to set a good result."
Herman Frison, sports director: "It's a very good performance of Tim Wellens - who's still very young - that he's attacking on the final day. He has ridden a very good Dauphiné and was in an escape three times. We didn't achieve our goal to have a place in the top ten, because of several reasons: Bart De Clercq had to quit because of stomach problems and Jurgen Van den Broeck was ill. About Jurgen I can only say we should stay calm and shouldn't panic, today he felt better. Our plan for the Tour stays the same, now he's going to the Sierra Nevada again to train."
André Greipel and Lotto Belisol have extended their agreement for two seasons. The fast German joined the team in 2011 and both parties are very satisfied about the cooperation, hence the new agreement. Since he arrived at the team he took 44 victories; he won ten of those this year, the Ronde van Zeeland Seaports being the most recent one. The biggest wins are of course the four stages in the Tour de France.
Also this year Greipel and the team will go for a stage win in the Tour. At Lotto Belisol André Greipel gets the support of a brilliant train. Marcel Sieberg, fellow countryman and good friend of Greipel, is an important part of it. Also Sibi signed for two more years.
Manager Marc Sergeant: "André Greipel is an indispensable part of the Lotto Belisol puzzle. For me a prolonged stay was a necessity. The vision of our team is to be a Belgian team, completed with foreign riders who give an added value and let us play a role on the highest level. The number of top sprinters is limited and in Belgium there are no sprinters of his calibre, so for me it was never an option that André would leave the team. I think André is very attached to the team and that the team very much appreciates André Greipel as a person and as a rider. His victories are like cement for the whole team. The fact that Marcel Sieberg extends his contract as well is logical. Both riders are almost all the time together on the road, they understand each other very well and Sieberg is an important link, for example in the sprint train."
André Greipel: "For me there's no better team than Lotto Belisol. Not many teams focus on the sprint. I find it important that the guys from my train stay as well, like Marcel Sieberg with whom I'm already riding together for many years and who's a good friend. I don't see him in another team than me. As well the team as I wanted to sign the agreement as soon as possible, now we can fully focus on the Tour."
Marcel Sieberg: "There's a good atmosphere in the team, we're like a big family. It's now my third year in this Belgian team and this extension shows they have faith in me. I'm working with André Greipel for more than five years now and we already know each other for a year of eighteen. It's nice to help a friend on his way to a victory, but of course I like to support the other riders as well. I'm a team player and am happy with every victory of the team."
Tomorrow the Tour de Suisse will start, the race ends on Sunday 16th of June. This is the second preparatory race for the Tour de France, next to the Critérium du Dauphiné. Lotto Belisol relies on Francis De Greef for a good overall classification. The key word for our team in this tough WorldTour race is: attacking. Hopefully that will be rewarded by a stage win. Tosh Van der Sande comes back in competition after he broke his left collarbone four weeks ago in the Tour de Picardie.
During this Tour de Suisse there are two time trial tests. On the first day one of 8,1 km and of 26,8 km on the final day. In all the other stages there are many uphill kilometers. Last year's winner Rui Costa will defend his title. Tejay Van Garderen will be one of his opponents. Andy Schleck will also stand at the start in Switzerland, just like his teammate and local hero Fabian Cancellara.
Marc Wauters, sports director: "Francis De Greef is our man for the GC. In the Giro he only became 21st, while we had hoped for a place in the top fifteen. In Switzerland he can take revenge. First of all we are aiming for a place in the top ten and if he's in a break which makes it to the finish line, top five might be possible. Francis doesn't have to wait, but should take control of the race."
"The other guys have a free role. The instructions are the same as in the Giro: attacking and trying to win a stage. Kenny Dehaes is feeling good, if he can survive the climbs he's our man for the sprint. Tosh Van der Sande is just coming back in competition after he broke his collarbone, so we have to see how he survives in this tough race. The Tour de Suisse is hard like always, it's a race for climbers."
Selection Lotto Belisol: Brian Bulgaç, Francis De Greef, Jens Debusschere, Kenny Dehaes, Olivier Kaisen, Maarten Neyens, Fréderique Robert and Tosh Van der Sande.
Earlier this week Jelle Vanendert left the second stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Back in Belgium he had the necessary tests to search for the cause of his weak performances.
Jan Mathieu, team doctor: "Tests have showed that a parasite has developed in the intestines of Jelle. The consequences of these parasite in the body of Jelle are tiredness and not being able to make full use of his capacities. After a period of rest the symptoms seem to be gone, but from the moment he has to exert himself, they return."
"Many people who have a parasite in their body never notice it. For a sportsman that's different, they have consequences much easier. Because they spend much time outside, they are more susceptible for this phenomenon as well. Such a parasite can be formed after contact with contaminated water from puddles during their training rides or in races. Now we know the cause of his problems, we started an adequate antibiotics cure."
Jelle Vanendert now has to stay calm for ten days, then the training can be built up again. He won't get fit before the Tour, which starts on June 29.
Marc Sergeant, manager: "Jelle, the sport and medical staff have decided not to participate in the Tour de France. Most important in first instance is that he gets healthy again by resting and getting the right medication. Then we can work towards competition level through a specific training. A new programme will be drawn up with the Vuelta, the world championships and Lombardia as main goals. We believe in the big capabilities of Jelle and are convinced he‘ll serve the team in the final part of the season."
Tim Wellens has animated the fifth stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné. In the mountain stage from Grésy-sur-Aix to Valmorel a front group of twelve was formed after about ten kilometers, the 22-year-old Lotto Belisol rider was one of them. Imanol Erviti, Tom-Jelte Slagter and Frantisek Rabon were some of his fellow escapees. Three riders, among them leader in the mountain classification Thomas Damuseau, bridged the gap. The group got a lead up to five minutes.
The final climb to Valmorel was outside category: 12,7 kilometers with an average gradient of 7%. Huzarski, Rabon and Teklehaimanot left their companions behind in the first kilometers uphill. A strong Tim Wellens came back to the Eritrean Teklehaimanot, who was leading solo. The young Wellens left him immediately behind. Matthew Busche, one of the early escapees, made the jump to Wellens at five kilometers from the end and went further ahead on his own. The group with GC riders, where Sky took control, was getting close. In the final hectometers Chris Froome and Alberto Contador caught up with Busche. Froome won and takes over the yellow jersey from Rohan Dennis.
Jurgen Van den Broeck had a tough day and was dropped after a few kilometers on the climb to Valmorel. He arrived 9'58" later than Froome. According to sports director Herman Frison Van den Broeck didn't have any power in his legs today. The leader of Lotto Belisol is a bit ill and will take precautions. The road to the Tour will be continued as foreseen. Bart De Clercq could hang on long in the group of favourites and became 11th at 32". In the GC he's now 16th at 3'30".
Tim Wellens: "I took off with a rider of Euskaltel and became part of a group of twelve and later fifteen riders. There was a good cooperation all the time. We had to give full gas, because in the background Katusha was riding hard. We didn't get or lead for free. On the final climb three riders jumped away. I accelerated and could catch up with them, then I ended up on my own. For a moment I believed I could make it to the finish, but the climb was tough. Then Busche passed me by. Unfortunately for him he was caught so close to the finish line."
"The level is very high here, so that I can make the race here gives me a good feeling. Many people watch this race of course, that's always nice. The past few days I supported the team, but didn't feel quite good. I also had some knee troubles, but that's over now. This stage has made my Dauphiné. Saturday there's the queen stage. The team will try to have someone in the break again, so who knows you'll see me again."