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Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) in action during the Tour of Belgium prologue
Last year winner loses almost 16 minutes on road to Knokke-Heist
Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) was bluntly honest in his assessment of his performance on stage one of the Tour of Belgium, as he came in over quarter of an hour down on winner André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
Often criticised for missing crucial splits due to lapses in concentration, the Belgian champion admitted that he simply did not have the legs to stay at the front when crosswinds broke up the peloton with 50km to go.
“I don’t need to look for excuses,” Devolder told Het Nieuwsblad at the finish. “It’s not that I wasn’t paying attention. I knew that there would be echelons, but I just wasn’t good enough to stay with the best.”
A former teammate and close friend of the late Wouter Weylandt, Devolder has struggled to focus on training in the weeks since his tragic death on the descent of the Passo del Bocco, during stage three of the Giro d’Italia.
“My life stopped for around two weeks,” Devolder said. “I’ve barely trained.”
Winner of the Tour of Belgium twelve months ago, Devolder has ruled himself out of the reckoning for even a stage win on this occasion. Instead, he has limited his ambitions to finding some form as he seeks to make amends for a listless spring campaign.
Signed by Vacansoleil-DCM at the end of 2010 to lead their charge in the cobbled classics, Devolder made little impact in April, and the 31-year-old will be looking to salvage something from the remainder of the season.
“I don’t have many hopes for this Tour of Belgium, even for the stage to Eupen on Saturday,” he said. “I want to rebuild my condition, nothing more. The important thing is that I get back to my level.”