"Step on the gas... and go!"
By Brecht Decaluwé in Ronse
The impulsive racing style of Stijn Devolder finally delivered results, giving him a smashing performance at the Belgian nationals and the Tour de Suisse.
"Stijn is somebody who has been colouring the races for many years now, and today you see that if you keep trying, it has to deliver on a given day," said Discovery Channel's team director Dirk Demol, who tried to convince his compatriot to start in la Grande Boucle even though Devolder's program didn't originally include the Tour de France. Instead, Devolder preferred to aim for the Vuelta a Espana.
"I insisted a little longer but we decided to support his plans," said Demol. "Stijn prefers to be a protected rider in Spain rather than working as a domestique in the Tour de France. By supporting his plans, we want to show our confidence in him," Demol said to Cyclingnews.
The new Belgian national champion had disappointed the team during the Spring Classics when the pressure was on his shoulders, but he has been discovering other talents during recent stage races. "I'm sure Stijn can handle the pressure, and he will not disappoint us in the Vuelta. More and more, he's performing well during stage races like earlier this year in Germany and Paris-Nice," Demol praised his compatriot before assuring that we'll see the new national jersey more than on one occasion next year.
It was said that Devolder would be working for Janez Brajkovic in Switzerland, but Devolder's hard work during the climbs at the Tour de Suisse caused Brajkovic to drop from the group of favourites. "I've read that as well," said Demol, "but I want to correct that because Devolder rode for himself in Switzerland and he was feeling good. He was trying to help Brajkovic with a steady pace, by avoiding attacks, but it proved to be too hard for Janez."
"Stijn often receives a free role in our team and that's something that suits him perfectly," said Demol, who then explained how the team gets Devolder fired up. "Step on the gas... and go!" they say, although smart readers may realize that sounds different in local slang.
Last week Discovery Channel released their line-up for the Tour de France. One of the team's in-form men is Vladimir Gusev. "He's riding strong for a long time already, and his performance on the Grimselpass was impressive. I expect him to pull off a top-five result in the prologue in London," predicted Demol. "To win the prologue, Cancellara looks unbeatable to me after his performance in Switzerland."
Referring to next Saturday's time trial through the streets of London, Demol said, "Gusev won't be our man for the GC though, we've got Leipheimer for yellow and Contador for the white, young rider's jersey."