Tony Gallopin and Tim Wellens will lead the charge for Lotto-Soudal at Saturday’s Clasica San Sebastian. Further north, Lars Bak, Jurgen Roelandts and Jelle Wallays will head an aggressive approach to the RideLondon Classic on Sunday.
“Tim Wellens and Tony Gallopin are our leaders. Jelle Vanendert and Tiesj Benoot are also able to set a good result on that course,” said directeur sportif Frederik Willems. “Tiesj didn’t ride Tour de Wallonie because he was ill, but he could train sufficiently to get ready for Saturday. Sean De Bie, Pim Ligthart, Tosh Van der Sande and Louis Vervaeke need to support the others. We really have a strong team.”
Gallopin is a former champion at San Sebastian, having won it in a late break beating Alejandro Valverde by 28 seconds. The Frenchman’s win came on the final outing of the old course, which did not include the challenging Bordako Tontorra. He missed the race last season and instead opted to ride the Olympic test event in Rio, although he missed selection in France’s four-man squad.
Wellens has ridden San Sebastian in each of the previous three seasons, with increasingly better result, but with 31st at last season’s race his best result, he is yet to compete for victory. Wellens will be using the Spanish race as preparation for his debut at the Olympic Games a week later. The team states that they will not be looking for the early break and point to the Bordako Tontorra as the key point in the course.
“The last climb will be the crucial one. The other climbs will already split the bunch, but the final selection will occur on the last climb,” explained Willems. “It’s a climb of 2.5 kilometres with an average gradient of 9%. The first five hundred metres gradually go uphill and then there’s a peak of 20 per cent. In total, there is a 20 per cent gradient for 500 to 600 metres. Apart from the fact that the climb is steep, it’s also a very narrow one. The most important part of the race will be turning up the climb. The others have to make sure Tim and Tony are well positioned. All eight should be able to remain in the first group until the bottom of the climb. I expect we can play along for the podium in San Sebastián.”
Lotto-Soudal’s line-up at the RideLondon Classic will be employing an entirely different tactic with several breakaway specialists in their six-man squad. Andre Greipel had previously been pencilled in for the race but, after a successful finish to the Tour de France, he has not been named in the line-up. Without their fast man in the bunch, the Belgian team hope for a more broken race.
“We aren’t aiming for a bunch sprint, but we plan to race aggressively. The course is perfect for that. Jelle Wallays is doing really well. Last week he won GP Cerami,” said DS Marc Wauters. “Kris Boeckmans is making progress every week like we saw at Tour de Wallonie. He has a chance when it comes down to a sprint at the finish. Frederik Frison was also climbing well at Tour de Wallonie so that he can show something on Sunday as well. We will certainly choose to attack, and if the race does end with a bunch sprint, we will see which rider sprints: Kris, Jens or Jürgen.”
Lotto-Soudal for the Clasica San Sebastian: Tiesj Benoot, Sean De Bie, Tony Gallopin, Pim Ligthart, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.
Lotto-Soudal for the RideLondon Classic: Lars Bak, Kris Boeckmans, Jens Debusschere, Frederik Frison, Jürgen Roelandts and Jelle Wallays.