With Belgium restricted to having just seven riders on the start line in Florence for this year’s UCI Road World Championships, federation President Tom Van Damme has voiced his disappointment, suggesting the causes are poor supervision and a lack of ambition amongst Belgian riders.
The team of the defending champion Philippe Gilbert, dropped to 11th in the UCI WorldTour nations ranking following the Tour of Poland, leaving Van Damme to say that the position should have been avoided in the first place. Only nations in the top ten of the ranking are offered the full quota of nine places for the men's Elite world road race championships.
"Bad luck is a major cause," Van Damme told Sporza. "We lost a lot of points by the fall of Tom Boonen in the spring and the fall of Jurgen Van den Broeck in the Tour. They could have steered us to the sixth or seventh."
Gilbert is again seen as Belgium’s best chance for a result at the championships. Van Damme also suggested that better structures needed to be in place to ensure that Belgium was not again faced with limited prospects at the world championships.
"Everything starts with good performance," he said. "At the youth level we do it right, but it often falters in the pros. This is due to poor supervision and lack of ambition."
National coach Carlo Bomans however said the team was not going to be hamstrung by not having the full compliment of riders.
"Well, even with nine riders it's not easy to become world champion," he told the Gazette Van Antwerpen. "But with seven we can also do it, for sure."
Belgium’s fortunes took a turn for the worst in Poland with a mechanical problem that hit RadioShack's Ben Hermans in the time trial. He dropped him from 9th overall to 12th and therefore missed out on any UCI WorldTour points.
According to Bomans, Hermans experience was no different to some of the misfortune of the Belgians throughout the rest of the season, which began with their least successful spring campaign since 1945.
"Things have been running against us for a while," he said.