Benoot and Wellens lead Lotto Soudal at Brabantse Pijl

Belgian team backing duo for victory

Lotto Soudal will ride in support of dual leaders Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens in Wednesday's 1.HC De Brabantse Pijl-La Flèche Brabanconne.

Benoot was eighth at the Tour of Flanders two weeks ago before heading to Spain's Sierra Nevada for a training camp in preparation for the Ardennes Classics. The 24-year-old was third at last year's De Brabantse Pijl and then 15th at Amstel Gold Race. In 2018, Benoot makes his Liège-Bastogne-Liège debut but first is hoping to refind his racing legs in De Brabantse Pijl.

"The training camp in Sierra Nevada did me good. It gave me the opportunity to recover mentally from the first part of the spring and to prepare the Ardennes races in the same time," said Benoot. "I can't wait to race again. I assume my condition is still as good as it was. Tomorrow will probably be the most difficult of the four races for me as I had to travel home yesterday. By Sunday I will be fully recovered and be fresh for the Amstel Gold Race. Of course I want to animate the race tomorrow and I will aim for a good result too."

The race is also the first in several weeks for Wellens who last pinned on a dossard at Paris-Nice. The 26-year-old finished fifth in the south of France and also won the points classification but then fell ill and missed his next stage race target as he explained.

"I got ill after Paris-Roubaix and couldn't ride the Volta a Catalunya. Together with the team and my trainer it was decided that I wouldn't race in the Basque Country, but that I would prepare for the Walloon Classics with a number of qualitative trainings," said Wellens. "I think that went well, but we'll see the result tomorrow. I have faith in it though."

Wellens was fourth on the same time as Benoot last year and will be chasing his first podium result at the race. But will do so knowing his bigger targets come later in the week.

"We will start with a very strong team," he said. "I can race without any pressure tomorrow, I'll see where that leads to. The past four editions Lotto Soudal claimed a podium place three times, but we didn't win. It would be nice if we could change that tomorrow."

Wellens has steadily improved at the Ardennes week since his 2013 debut and is hoping to lay the platform for success in his fourth one-day race of the season.

"The Brabantse Pijl is the first of four important races and the only non-WorldTour race," he said. "That means the level might not be as high as the other races, but still there are more than enough riders who can perform well on that course."

Lotto-Soudal for De Brabantse Pijl-La Flèche Brabanconne: Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Tomasz Marczyński, Rémy Mertz, Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens. 

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