Two time Eneco Tour Tim Wellens is aiming to make it hat-trick this week at the final stage race of the 2016 WorldTour calendar. The Lotto Soudal rider won the Tour de Pologne in July and is facing stiff competition for another WorldTour stage win this season.
"I cherish the Eneco Tour very much. In 2014 this race was my first victory so that's why I'm very attached to it. This year it will be harder to win the GC again," said Wellens who will wear the number one dossard for the race. "First of all because I'm not as good as I hoped. After the races in Canada I participated in the GP de Wallonie and I wasn't good. Maybe I had bad legs or maybe I still suffered of the long flight back home. I don't know."
The 25-year-old added that his chances have also been hampered by a change in the parcours.
"Adding to that, the course of this year's Eneco Tour doesn't suit me very well. The organization decided to cut my favourite stage, the one to La Redoute. Fortunately the time trial and the team time trial are no disadvantage. The circuit of the individual time trial is the same as the one in 2014. Usually I’m not at my best in a flat time trial, but if the legs are good that shouldn't make any difference," he added.
With stage 1 looking like being decided in a bunch sprint, the first test for the GC riders comes on stage 2 with the 9.6km Breda time trial key to Wellens' overall aspirations.
"The stage in the Ardennes is usually the stage where I take over the leader's jersey. This year the finish is in Lanaken and the flat finale will make big time differences almost impossible," he said. "The last stage to Geraardsbergen will be the most important one in this edition but also the bonus seconds and the time trial will be decisive. After the time trial on the second day we'll know immediately if I can set a good overall result or not."
Lotto Soudal will have Andre Greipel for the sprints and sports director Herman Frison is expecting the German champion to shine as he prepares for next month's world championships.
"It looks like the Eneco Tour is based on the World Championships in Qatar. First of all it's scheduled much later than usual in the cycling calendar and there are a lot of flat stages. Not even the stage in the Ardennes is hard. All courses are rather flat and the first day could be a simulation of what can happen in Qatar: if there is a bit of wind, the riders can form echelons," Frison said.
Lotto Soudal for the Eneco Tour: Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Jens Debusschere, Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison, André Greipel, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg.
Samuele Conti tests positive, Angelo Citracca to take rider to court
Wilier Trestina-Southeast have announced its rider Samuele Conti tested positive to GHRP-2 on August 13. The 25-year-old rode the Tour of Qinghai Lake in July then recorded a DNF on August 5 at the UCI 1.1 Dwars door het Hageland - Aarschot. He was next in action at the Arnhem-Veenendaal Classic on August 19 where he was 55th.
Team manager Angelo Citracca expressed his anger with Conti's positive test for the growth hormone releasing peptide for undoing all the hard work of the team to ensure a 'transparent' image.
"After spending all the day in the hospital because my son needed a surgery operation I've been informed about Samuele Conti's positivity, a real shock," Citracca said. "We were clear at the beginning of the season about this topic, we have a system of internal controls for making the team the most transparent as possible.
"Unfortunately the actions of an idiot can ruin everything, they put at risk the job of 40 people and the life of 40 families. I spoke with the rider who told me that he took a vitamine supplement but I don't believe this bullshit. I think this is just the excuse of a stupid person who thinks to be smarter than the others. As a team we are totally extraneous and we are ready to take him to court."
Third straight NRS victory for Joe Cooper at National Capital Tour
Avanti IsoWhey Sports' Joe Cooper made it three straight NRS wins as he took out the 2016 National Capital Tour ahead of Robert Stannard (mobius Future Racing). Despite crashing on the wet fourth and final stage, Cooper held on to continue his winning streak.
"Nobody really wants to race in these conditions and then everyone wants to take risks and then I end up on the ground because two riders got tangled and took me out. It's pretty average racing when they do that, I'm not 20 anymore and I don't enjoy crashing," Cooper said. "After that, everyone sort of calmed down a bit. If it takes the yellow jersey to fall off for everyone to calm down then so be it.
"It's good to go back to back to back, that is three NRS tours in a row now, I don't know if it's been done before… I'm all about doing things for the first time."
The NRS continues with the Tour of Tasmania from October 5-9 and concludes October with the Melbourne to Warrnambool on October 15.