Having undergone knee surgery which saw him miss his usual season opener, the Tour Down Under, Greg Henderson will ride his first race of the season in Spain at the Vuelta a Andalucía Ruta Ciclista Del Sol. Jelle Vanendert is also taking his place on the start line for Lotto Belisol after his crash at the Tour de San Luis which forced him to abandon the race.
Joining Henderson and Vanendert will be climbers Bart De Clercq, who also underwent surgery in the off-season, Maxime Monfort and Tim Wellens along with the fast men, Jens Debusschere and Frederik Willems.
Lotto Belisol sports director Jean-Pierre Heynderickx explained on the team website what the approach the previously injured duo will take. "Of course Greg has no optimal condition yet, because he hasn't ridden any races so far this year. We have to wait and see if he will be able to fully play the part as lead-out man for Jens Debusschere. For Greg and Jelle the Ruta del Sol is important to get competition rhythm. "
For Heynderickx the results from the opening prologue will decide the tactics in the mountains. "Lots will be clear after tomorrow's prologue about the role of our other three climbers: De Clercq, Monfort and Wellens. The course is quite technical, with many roundabouts. We'll do a thorough recon of it," he said.
"Maxime Monfort is of course a good time trialist, but also Tim Wellens has the capacities to maintain a good position for GC after the prologue. Tomorrow will be a first important day for the overall classification."
The team will be chasing a good overall result as Andre Greipel has already accumulated several stage wins already in 2014 including Stage 1 of the Tour of Oman. Heynderickx identified the first two stages as crucial to deciding the victor of the Ruta del Sol.
"The first stage has quite a tough start with almost immediately a climb of first category of about ten kilometres. There's also a tough final that day. The second stage will be decisive for the GC, there's a mountain finish. Our first goal is to get a good GC with De Clercq, Monfort and Wellens.
"Of course that way they also have a chance to win a stage. In stage three we aim for Jens Debusschere. Depending on the race developments also the last stage might end with a sprint of a big group."
Lotto Belisol team for Ruta del Sol: Bart De Clercq, Jens Debusschere, Greg Henderson, Maxime Monfort, Jelle Vanendert, Tim Wellens and Frederik Willems.