In like Stijn
Who is this young Belgian talent who no-one - except Discovery DS Dirk Demol - really knew or wanted to know about until his overall win at the Three Days of De Panne? Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan meets Stijn Devolder, once a dark-horse but now a top favourite for Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Watching his friend and current directeur-sportif Dirk Demol win Paris-Roubaix almost 16 years ago, aged seven, then developing under his guidance as an amateur, aged 14, and then meeting up with him again 10 years later to join what was then called US Postal Service and one of the best teams in pro cycling, one would think Stijn Devolder dreams of emulating Demol's feat in a fortnight's time at the "Hell of the North".
"Actually, the Tour of Flanders is my favourite race," Devolder says to Cyclingnews - two days before his favourite race. "I still like Paris-Roubaix, but I like the Tour of Flanders a little bit more because of the hills."
Yes, with 17 short, sharp climbs in this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen [see parcours], Devolder likes it tough. It's part of the Belgian mentality. And it's in no small part responsible for his overall victory in the Driedaagse van De Panne on Thursday, where the 25 year-old took the biggest win of his career.