Big name Belgian riders talk before their championship race
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) hopes to win the Belgian national road championship, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) thinks he also has a good chance to take the title, while defending champion Stijn Devolder of Vacansoleil has admitted he has virtually no chance of retaining the red, yellow and black Belgian national champion's jersey.
“I definitely want to be champion and will go all out,” Boonen said, according to Sporza. "The course this year is too easy," he added. “I'd prefer something harder and more selective.”
An outsider has a good chance to win this year, but if it comes to a mass sprint, Boonen will be ready. “I am confident that my sprint is good enough,” he said.
Boonen, who won the national title in 2009, that “I will take as much risk as in the Belgian nationals as in the first Tour stage. The nationals are just as important to me, the jersey is so beautiful."
Gilbert sees good chances
Philippe Gilbert, the number one rider in the UCI WorldTour ranking and the dominant rider of this year's Spring classics, hopes to finally win the Belgian national road championship.
“If the opportunity arises, given my condition, why not?” he told dhnet.be.
“On this type of flat course, everyone has a chance. Even an average rider. I will not ask the team to ride for me because I'm hoping my teammates, some of whom may have difficulty finding a team next year, can also get a result. A victory, even a podium place, can secure their future for the next two or three seasons.”
Gilbert has ridden the Belgian national championships 13 times, either as a Junior or Elite, but has never won a national road title.
"I'd love to have a Belgian champion's jersey. It's really one of the best jerseys in the peloton. It's easily to recognize, and because Belgium is still the ultimate cycling country. "
Gilbert predicted that “anything can happen,” on Sunday. A long breakaway wouldn't surprise him but he warned: "I plan to be there in the finale.”
Devolder's “year of misery”
Defending champion Stijn Devolder sees no chance of victory this year, calling 2011 “a year of misery”. The Vacansoleil rider has been hit hard by the death of his close friend Wouter Weylandt. “I went more than two weeks without touching my bike,” he said in Het Laatste Nieuws, according to dhnet.be.
While he showed some improvement in the Tour de Suisse, “I will not lie. I'm not in any condition for the Championship or the Tour,” he said.
“I have no chance. Especially in a championship against some of the best riders in the world like Gilbert, Boonen, Nuyens, Van Summeren, Leukemans, De Gendt, Van Avermaet.”