Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto) will take to the start line of his very first Grand Tour at the Giro d'Italia in Amsterdam, Netherlands on Saturday, and the young Belgian is looking forward to it. After some good results in medium-length stage races since his victory of the Tour de l'Avenir in 2008, Bakelants is curious to find out how a three-week race will affect his body and performances.
"I know I can get through ten days of racing, like at the Tour de l'Avenir or at the Eneco Tour last year, where I finished ninth," Bakelants told La Dernière Heure. "But this will be twice as long."
Although Bakelants will race at the service of his team leader Sebastian Lang, he will have the freedom to shoot for stage victories whenever the opportunity arises. He said he would prefer to take those chances rather than achieve an "anonymous" top-30 placing overall.
"What sense does it make to just follow the rest and finish 25th? Nobody ever recalls such a placing. I prefer to race aggressively like [Quick Step's Dries] Devenyns did last year, when he went for a stage victory twice. I hope to get this chance in the second week of racing, when the general classification will be established - I will certainly take the initiative to try and score a stage then."
While Bakelants has shown good form in recent weeks, at the Tour de Romandie and the Ardennes Classics, he knows that there is still a great margin between his own capabilities and those of his more experienced colleagues.
"You have to be realistic with regard to the competition," said the 24 year-old. "I'm happy with how the start of the season went for me. I'm here for a stage victory, but being a rider who's only in his second year as a pro, it won't be a scandal if I don't achieve my goal."