Jurgen Roelandts is one of Lotto-Belisol’s aces for the Spring Classics' campaign. The 28-year-old Belgian finished third in this year’s Tour of Flanders but knew there was nothing more to be gained there.
“I did everything right that day, but [Fabian] Cancellara and [Peter] Sagan were stronger. I went to sleep that night without any regrets," he said.
The Tour of Flanders remains the dream of many racers in the world, especially if they are from Flanders. “I used to train a lot near Meerbeke, on the old course,” Roelandts told Cyclingnews at the Lotto-Belisol team launch in Gent. “It remains my life-long dream to win it one day.”
Roelandts finds some formidable foes on the Flemish roads. “Cancellara, Sagan and Boonen are in a league of their own, but I am not beaten before the race starts. If you look at 2011, when Nick Nuyens won the Tour of Flanders and Johan Vansummeren triumphed in Roubaix, you see that these things are also possible. And if I arrive at the finish with Sagan and Cancellara, I can beat them in a direct sprint.”
The soft spoken Belgian has been riding since he was 12 years old but he keeps learning every year. “The times that I did endless training hours just to accumulate the kilometres are over. I changed my training methods which are now more directed towards quality rather than mere quantity.”
Roelandts is getting older and more experienced as a bike rider, but in his case his crash in the 2012 Tour Down Under is also a determining factor in his career. He broke a vertebra in his neck in the first stage and faced complications with thrombosis upon arriving back in Belgium.
“It was a close call and it taught me to see things in a different light. Before I would consider and then reconsider buying a new car for instance. Now I just do it. I also do not take unnecessary risks anymore. If someone needs to overtake me on a descent at 70 kilometres from the finish, I let them.”
The crash in the Tour Down Under cost him four months of recovery before coming back with a stage win in the Tour of Luxembourg. Another misfortune occurred when he broke his collar bone in the autumn of that same year. This early vacation did result in a third place in this year’s Tour of Flanders.
“To ride up the Kwaremont alone with all these people was just amazing. It was a dream. Even though Sagan and Cancellara came back and I finished third, the crowds were cheering my name during the TV interviews after the finish. I just gave it my all that day. I have no regrets and didn’t make any mistakes.”
Team manager Marc Sergeant said at the team presentation that betting on one horse during the Spring Classics is risky and makes the team vulnerable. The Belgian squad reinforced itself with strong riders like Tony Gallopin who should play a role in supporting Roelandts or the Frenchman could take up the role as joint team captain himself, too.
“The new course of the Tour of Flanders will mean that teams don’t wait that long anymore, I hope. With strong riders like Gallopin, Jens Debusschere and [Andre] Greipel I can win this race. Yes, if Cancellara finishes one and a half minutes ahead of me, no it’s not possible. But if I look back to the victories of Nick Nuyens and Johan Vansummeren in 2011. There is always that possibility in a race.”
Roelandts is not only one of the captains for the spring campaign, he is also a vital part of Lotto-Belisol’s sprint train. The Belgian is the last man before André Greipel after Greg Henderson, Marcel Sieberg and Adam Hansen have done their job.
“In a sprint, I am not afraid. The adrenalin drives you through those hectic moments,” he said of the sprint train which resulted in victories in the Tour de France, Tour Down Under, Belgium Tour and the Eneco Tour this year, among others.
The Tour Down Under also marks the start of what will become his seventh season for Lotto-Belisol. Via the Tours of Qatar and Oman, his Spring Classics’ season will begin at the Omloop het Nieuwsblad. After the Classics, the affable Belgian will continue his year in support of André Greipel towards the Tour de France where Lotto-Belisol will take on Argos-Shimano and Omega Pharma-Quick Step in the sprints.