Tom Boonen and Greg Van Avermaet will headline the Belgian team in the World Championships road race, with the selectors announcing the full line-ups for the men’s and women’s events, which take place in Qatar next month.
Boonen has a rich history of one-day success to his name and proved he still possesses a fast finish with recent triumphs at RideLondon and the Brussels Cycling Classic, where he got the better of French leaders Arnaud Demare and Nacer Bouhanni. He recently crashed out of the Eneco Tour but doesn't appear to have been left with any serious injuries.
Olympic champion Van Avermaet, meanwhile, has earmarked a ‘free role’ for himself, aiming to take advantage of any opportunities that may present themselves rather than committing squarely to the Boonen cause.
The duo will be flanked by a team of strong Classics riders, including Eneco Tour runner-up Oliver Naesen, Vuelta a Espana stage winner Jens Keukeliere, and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne champion Jasper Styuven. Completing the line-up are the Etixx-QuickStep duo of Iljo Keisse and Nikolas Maes, and the Lotto Soudal duo of Jens Debuscherre and Jurgen Roelandts.
While Keisse is likely to be saved for the fast and sinuous laps of the Doha Corniche, where the race will culminate, Boonen could well look to use the others to make the race as exacting as possible in the desert in a bid to sap the legs of the pure power sprinters.
Belgium’s last world champion, Philippe Gilbert, had long since ruled himself out of an appearance, saying the flat 257km Doha course was ill-suited to his characteristics, and there is a string of other notable absentees. Sep Vanmarcke misses out after illness forced him to skip the Eneco Tour, while there’s no space for Gianni Meersman, despite his two sprint stage wins at the Vuelta a España.
Timothy Dupont, the Verandas-Willems rider who has won 15 races this season, did not make the cut but has been named on the reserve list, which also includes Yves Lampaert, Jelle Wallays, and Jonas Van Genechten. Other riders who wouldn’t have been out of place in the line-up include Tiesj Benoot, Julien Vermote, Thomas de Gendt, Dries Devenyns, and Stijn Vandenbergh.
On the women’s side, Jolien D’Hoore will lead the charge on the similarly flat but exclusively city-based 134.5km course. The 26-year-old took an Olympic bronze medal on the track in the Omnium in Rio, and reinforced her road credentials with victory at La Madrid Challenge earlier this month.
She will be supported by Valerie Demey, Sofie de Vuyst, Lotto Kopecky, Kaat van der Meulen, and Anisha Vekemans.
As for the time trials, the representatives on the men’s side will be Victor Campenaerts, the national champion, and Yves Lampaert, who was runner-up in that contest in June. Both riders have shown strong form recently at the European Championships and Vuelta a España time trials.
National champion Ann-Sophie Duyck is the sole representative on the women’s side.
Elite Men's road race team: Tom Boonen, Greg Van Avermaet, Oliver Naesen, Jens Keukeleire, Jasper Stuyven, Iljo Keisse, Nikolas Maes, Jens Debuscherre, Jurgen Roelandts
Reserves: Timothy Dupont, Yves Lampaert, Jelle Wallays, and Jonas Van Genechten
Elite Women's road race team: Jolien D'Hoore, Valerie Demey, Sofie de Vuyst, Lotto Kopecky, Kaat van der Meulen, Anisha Vekemans.
Reserves: Annelies Dom, Kaat Hannes
Elite Men's time trial: Victor Campenaerts, Yves Lampaert
Elite Women's time trial: Ann-Sophie Duyck