Lotto-Belisol has decided that in the absence of Jürgen Roelandts, who hasn't recovered from injuries sustained from a crash at the Tour of Flanders, the team will give opportunities to its younger riders at the 111th edition of Paris-Roubaix this Sunday.
Three neo-pros in 24-year-old Vegard Breen, 23-year-old Stig Broeckx and 20-year-old Boris Vallée have all beengiven a starting berth for 'The Hell of the North.' For Broeckx and Vallée, it is the first time either rider will encounter the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix having never ridden the race as juniors or U23.
Marc Sergeant, manager Lotto Belisol, explained the selection that the team made regarding its emphasis on youth."It's not the moment to put specific pressure on the riders in the selection or put forward an exact result. We start exceptionally with the thought that nothing is obliged and everything can happen." Sergeant said.
"That could turn out positively, it offers opportunities to each of our riders. Our men have to join a breakaway. They have to animate the race and be prepared to die. Everybody is keen to ride on Sunday."
For Boris Vallée, the race is about learning for the future. "Because of the circumstances of the past weeks – crashes and injuries – I got my place in the selection. That's a very nice opportunity and I will get to learn for the future. I don't know what to expect. The recon did give me a good feeling.
While the Belgian is more familiar with native roads, Vallée is taking the opportunity with both hands. "I'm from the province of Liège and know the hills of La Doyenne well, but with my physique I'm more built to race over cobbles; I'm a costaud."
"It's an honour for me to make my début in Paris-Roubaix at the age of 20 in the jersey of Lotto Belisol. If there's an opportunity to join a breakaway, I will definitely grab the chance. I want to prove myself and show that I'm worthy of my place in the team."
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Broeckx made his debut at Flanders last Sunday and will line-up in Compiègne grateful for the opportunities afforded to him by the team. "I never thought that I could ride the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix as neo-pro. Participating in De Ronde already was a dream. On Monday I felt bad, I was sore everywhere. Tuesday was already much better; I'm definitely ready for Sunday," Broeckx said.
"This week I watched the video of the Tour of Flanders. I defended the colours of the team and it pleased me to see that. We've lost our absolute leader, Jürgen Roelandts. But guys like Jens Debusschere and Lars Bak are experienced as well. I'd love to get in a break, but of course that’s not easy. Moreover it’s the first time I will ride two Classics in a row."
Roelandts has spent the week hoping for a speedy recovery from the injuries he sustained at Flanders, but the one-week gap between races was not enough for the Belgian.
"My pelvis is still sore. A new check-up showed there’s a tear in my abs [so] it wasn't an option to start. Wednesday and Thursday, I literally couldn't step on my bike. Of course I had hoped I would have felt better by now, but that's not the case. I've had more severe injuries, but this hurts because this is the period I have worked for," Roelandts said.
"The rest period I had planned after the Classics has been prolonged. It's difficult to know how much time I'll need to recover and get fit again. I'm definitely curious to see how the young team will perform on Sunday and I hope they can show the team colours."
Lotto Belisol for Paris-Roubaix: Lars Bak, Kris Boeckmans, Vegard Breen, Stig Broeckx, Jens Debusschere, Kennny Dehaes, Marcel Sieberg and Boris Vallée.