Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) is aiming to add the Belgian time trial championship to the road title he already holds when he rolls down the start ramp in Habey-la-Neuve this Sunday. Devolder soloed to victory in the road race championship in June to salvage what has been a mixed season for him and now he has his eyes fixed on a unique double.
Nobody has ever taken both titles in the same year since the inception of the Belgian time trial championship in 1997. Devolder is already the only man to have worn the Belgian champion’s jersey in each discipline, having won the time trial event in 2008, the year after he took his first road race title, and he believes the 46km course will suit him.
“I like the route,” said Devolder, who will ride for Vacansoleil in 2011. “I won't deny that it would be a dream to wear the Belgian championship jersey on both the road and in the time trial.”
“My build-up to this race has been perfect. I hope I can find the right sensations and rhythm from the first kilometres and then just have a bit of good luck."
The dual Tour of Flanders winner finished in fourth place last time around behind champion Maxime Monfort (HTC-Columbia), who will also take part on Sunday.
Indeed, Monfort and last year’s bronze medallist Dominique Cornu (Skil-Shimano) have already been confirmed as Belgium’s representatives in the time trial at the World Championships in Melbourne as Devolder has already opted out of the event so as to concentrate on the road race.
"I’ll make the official announcement on Monday, but there are no other candidates," said Belgian team manager Carlo Bomans, speaking to Het Nieuwsblad. “Devolder would rather do the road race and moreover, he’s due to ride the Vuelta until the end, which is too close to the time trial, especially when it’s at the other side of the world.”
Bomans also noted that for practical reasons, his time trial duo will act as reserves for the road race should the need arise. “If someone from the road race team falls, you can’t just fly a rider to Australia at the last minute. Monfort and Cornu will be there anyway, and already adapted to the time difference and the conditions.”
The logistics of racing on the other side of the world will have another interesting impact on Bomans’ selection. As the Belgian team equipment leaves for Australia on September 8, he must decide on his team almost a month ahead of the road race, which takes place on October 3.
“That’s early, very early,” Bomans said. “Other years I could decide from the Vuelta who was going well, but now I have to make my decisions during the first week”