Belkin will throw all their resources at Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday in an attempt to get some success from a race that has often eluded them. The Dutch team will try to cover all eventualities as they send three leaders to the race.
Bauke Mollema, Paul Martens and Lars Petter Nordhaug are the men that Belkin hope can bring them success. Under any of their guises, since their inception in 1984, Belkin has never won at Flèche and the team admits that they do not head to start in Bastogne as leading contenders.
“Just as in the Amstel Gold Race, we have a strong team, although we don’t have a true favourite. Paul, Bauke and Lars Petter should be able to handle the tough final. The team will try to keep them as fresh as possible until the Mur de Huy,” said Sports Director Merijn Zeeman.
The team is expecting the race to pan out in a similar fashion to previous years, with the crucial moves coming on the final ascent of the day. “Flèche Wallonne is the most predictable race of the three Ardennes classics. Until the Mur de Huy, it will be a controlled race,” said Zeeman.
“The wind can be a factor, but we are well prepared and know the crucial points of the course.”
Mollema was the team’s best finisher at Amstel Gold last Sunday and is likely to be that once again tomorrow. He has twice finished inside the top 10, with 7th in 2012 being his best finish.
The Dutch rider has consistently been the team’s strongest rider at the Ardennes, but has lacked the finishing kick to really challenge the leaders. Mollema expects that the biggest fight will come from Katusha.
“I see riders like Joaquim Rodriguez and Dani Moreno as the favourites. I hope to save as much energy as possible until the final and on the Mur de Huy, I’ll give all I have,” he said. “The climbs in the final will weaken the pack and on the Mur de Huy we’ll be sprinting for the win with a large group. The man with the best punch will win.”
There are a number of changes to the team from the one that rode on Sunday. Jock Bobridge and Stef Clement step into the team, replacing Jos van Emden and Bram Tankink, who both competed in the earlier cobbled classics. David Tanner will ride on Wednesday, despite crashing out at Amstel Gold and injuring his knee.
Belkin team for Flèche Wallonne: Jack Bobridge, Stef Clement, Laurens ten Dam, Jonathan Hivert, Paul Martens, Bauke Mollema, Lars Petter Nordhaug and David Tanner.
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