Sunday the 72nd edition of Paris-Nice will start. The course differs from last years. The race doesn't start with a prologue and there is no time trial during the week. There aren't many tough climbs. The first three stages are pretty much flat. In the fourth and fifth stage there is each time a climb of second category at about 13 km from the end. It's only on the sixth day that there is a climb of first category: the Col de Bourigaille. This is at a distance of 19 kilometers from the finish in Fayence, which is uphill. That climb was given category two. The penultimate stage has five climbs on the route, the last one is 64,5 kilometers from the finish. The final stage ends on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. That day the peloton will climb the Col d'Eze, with the top 15 kilometers before the end.
There's going to be a nice peloton in this WorldTour race. Italian Vincezo Nibali has chosen not to ride Tirreno-Adriatico but to participate in the Race to the sun. Other riders that will travel to France are world champion Rui Costa, Carlos Betancur, John Degenkolb, Gianni Meersman and Tejay Van Garderen. The French public can cheer on their national champion Arthur Vichot, Nacer Bouhanni, Thomas Voeckler and of course Tony Galllopin. He wears the Lotto Belisol shirt. The team relies on him and Maxime Monfort to ride a good GC. Monfort already finished in the top ten twice.
Maxime Monfort: "This year a big part of my focus lies on the Giro and Vuelta. Paris-Nice is a goal in this first part of the season. Then I'll further prepare myself on the Giro via the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Tour de Romandie. I won't participate in any of the Ardennes classics. I want to ride a good season. That means that I want to get results on my level. I won't put an exact place on it. In Giro and Vuelta I strive for a good GC and I also want to perform well in a series of WorldTour races, one of those is Paris-Nice."
"I feel home at Lotto Belisol. After a long time I now ride again for a Belgian team and that has it benefits because I live in Belgium, but on the WorldTour level nationalities fade. For me it's more about the sportive challenge. I have a clear goal. For two of the Grand Tours the team relies on me to set a strong result. I have a protected role now."
Tony Gallopin: "Paris-Nice is an important goal for me this season. I have had a good preparation in the Etoile de Bessèges and Tour of Oman where I set a few good results. The course of Paris-Nice suits me. There is no long time trial or finish in the high mountains. Some stages are made for punchers and I can possibly play a role in those. Nibali and Van Garderen do indeed have a chance to win, but because of this year's route it will be an open race with more contenders for the overall than usually. I expect a first selection in the stages on Wednesday and Friday. The stages next weekend will decide who gets the trophy. I want to show myself in the fourth and sixth stage. Friday evening I'll see where I stand and know if a place in top ten is possible."
"On Monday we pass the area where I live, we'll even get at 15 kilometers of my home. Nice weather is predicted the next days. In that second stage the wind could otherwise play its role. Next to Maxime and I the team also brings Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens to Paris-Nice. We have many cards to play. The team has faith in me and gives me the space to optimally prepare myself in ideal circumstances for my goals. Paris-Nice is a first objective of me and I want to set a good result."
Selection Lotto Belisol: Sander Armée, Lars Bak, Kris Boeckmans, Tony Gallopin, Pim Ligthart, Maxime Monfort, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.
Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Marc Wauters.
|This week two races are scheduled. Wednesday March 5 there is Le Samyn and from March 7th until March 9th the Three Days of West-Flanders will be contested. Le Samyn, a race of 195,9 kilometers, will head from Quaregnon to Dour. After a straight 110km line there will be five laps in and nearby Dour.
The difficulty of the race is located in the first half of it, where the peloton has to cover five hills. In the local lap there are two more hills. The Côte de la Roquette and the Côte d'Audregnies have to ensure that only the strongest sprinters will battle for the win. The biggest contenders are the Frenchmen Adrien Petit and Nacer Bouhanni. Kenny Dehaes will be the sprinter for Lotto Belisol.
Two days later the Three Days of West-Flanders starts with a prologue of seven kilometers in Middelkerke. The second stage, which starts in Bruges and heads to Harelbeke, is about 182,9km long. The 185,9km final stage starts in Nieuwpoort and brings the riders to the traditional finish town Ichtegem. Among the favorites for GC are last year's winner Kristof Vandewalle, Stijn Devolder and Julien Vermote. Lotto Belisol focuses on a stage win with fast riders like Dehaes and Van der Sande.
Jean-Pierre Heynderickx, sports director: "We bring a youthful selection to Le Samyn. We have also chosen to select Greg Henderson for the race. The goal for Greg is to take his place back in the peloton after the knee injury he suffered. The past few years Kenny Dehaes was always very close to the victory. But this year we will try to turn things around and win the race. A couple of fast riders should do the lead-out for Dehaes. Once again I am expecting strong teamwork from Cofidis. With Adrien Petit in their selection they have a big chance to win. Another one to watch is Nacer Bouhanni."
"The prologue of the Three Days of West-Flanders will be crucial. If the team rides a decent prologue, we can climb up the GC in the following stages by picking up some bonifications. Our main goal for the race is to have a good GC and strive for a stage win. With Kristof Vandewalle and Stijn Devolder the Trek team has two shoo-ins for the overall."
Prologue: Friday 7th of March: Middelkerke (7km)
Stage 1: Saturday 8th of March: Brugge - Harelbeke (182.9km)
Stage 2: Sunday 9th of March: Nieuwpoort - Ichtegem (185.9km)
Today Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne took place, the second race of the Belgian opening weekend. The Oude Kwaremont turned out to be a crucial point. A front group of ten battled for victory. Tom Boonen won. André Greipel was the first Lotto Belisol rider, he finished in the first chase group on place 14.
Crucial phase on the Oude Kwaremont
In the first chase group were six Lotto Belisol riders: Lars Bak, Kris Boeckmans, Jens Debusschere, André Greipel, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg. Together with among other Katusha and Sky they took control of the small peloton. The difference kept hanging just above one minute for a long time. When entering the first of two local laps of 16 kilometers the gap was 56". 25 kilometers before the end the advantage of the leaders rose again above one minute. They battled for victory. Tom Boonen won the sprint. Moreno Hofland became second, his teammate Sep Vanmarcke was third. The group with Greipel finished at 1'24", he became 14th.
Herman Frison, sports director Lotto Belisol: "We knew the phase of Côte de Trieu and Oude Kwaremont would be crucial and that we had to be in front there with André Greipel and some teammates. Then we had to see how to handle the rest of the race to get a sprint. But we couldn't fulfil our ambitions. On the Kwaremont Greipel was riding in a good position, but he gradually lost some places and missed out on the decisive break. Lars Bak and Jürgen Roelandts immediately started pulling in the chase, but it was too late. With three teams and sometimes ten riders we chased the leaders. The difference kept hanging around one minute. The group didn't get closer, then you have to acknowledge the better riders were in front."
"We don't have to try and hide that the team had a bad weekend. The team has failed. But I don't agree that our team isn't strong enough as a whole; this is a random indication, indeed not an unimportant one. In the preparation we proved the opposite. For a big part it were the same riders, who helped to get success in the first races of the season. We missed the crucial moment today, but then we did everything to close the gap. Unfortunately that didn't work out. Our performance will understandably be enlarged. We didn't came to the front this weekend, but these two days are only one part of the season. Now we look ahead to new races, that offer new opportunities. Our next goals are Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. Those races will be ridden partly by riders who raced this weekend and also other riders. Next week we have to optimally prepare ourselves for that."
This season Lotto Belisol has closed a partnership with modemakers. The chain of clothing shops makes sure the riders are dressed stylish off the bike as well. Modemakers has eight shops in Flanders; where a huge assortment of clothing and accessories can be found for women, men and children.
Wim Maris, web and marketing coordinator modemakers: "The cycling sport appeals to a broad public of diverse ages, people of whom we also want they visit our shops. Just like them we are fond of cycling, that's why we engaged ourselves in the sport. Besides, as a Flemish company a partnership with the Belgian Lotto Belisol team is a perfect match. Modemarks supplies riders and sportive staff with casual clothing which they wear on several events."
Tomorrow, Friday 7th of March, modemakers opens an eighth shop. From 10 o'clock everybody is welcome in the brand-new shop in Stabroek. During the opening weekend there is an extra for the customers. After a purchase one's offered an ice cream, marshmallow, strawberry or brownie saté at the ice cream cart of Foubert on the car park. Place to be: Picoloplein 31, Stabroek.
Next Friday, 14th of March, there's the opening of the shop in Bornem. Here you find all branches in a row: Bornem, Kampenhout, Lier, Lochristi, Ninove, Stabroek, Tielt-Winge and Zwalm. More info: http://www.modemakers.be.
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This season the leisure wear of the Lotto Belisol riders is supplied by JAKO. The company was established 25 years ago by Mr. Rudi Sprügel, in the garage of his home in the German village Hollenbach, which is situated between two rivers: the JAgst and the KOcher. The brand name was derived from that and the logo symbolizes both rivers. JAKO is specialized in clothes for sport teams.
Jan Jacobs, director at JAKO: "By closing a partnership with WorldTour team Lotto Belisol we want to enlarge the brand name. JAKO is specialized in clothes for team sports. Also cyclists come forward in the same uniform before, during and after a race. The Lotto Belisol-riders have a large assortment of JAKO leisure wear at their disposal to wear before and after a race. These are for example tracksuits, sweaters and sports shirts."
"At the moment we dress three first class football teams in Belgium: Lierse SK, Waasland-Beveren and Mons. In Germany among other Hannover 96 and Eintracht Frankfurt are clients of us. We also have a partnership with Katusha. To emphasize the group feeling it's important that teammates come forward as an entity. At JAKO we're proud that we can dress the Lotto Belisol riders. They are great publicity to other team sports and show the importance of a strong team spirit."
More info: http://www.jako.eu/