Although Lotto-Belisol will head to the Tour Down Under for next week's start to the WorldTour calendar with two-time winner André Greipel, the Belgian team is not under pressure to fight for the overall victory. Directeur sportif Herman Frison is, however, hoping the team can get its first victory of 2014 as soon as possible.
One place Greipel may be able to fulfill that goal is at the People's Choice Classic criterium in Adelaide, which precedes the Tour Down Under. Greipel has won the race three times, including the past two editions, and will have his faithful lead-out men to help him battle the likes of Matt Goss, Marcel Kittel and Mark Renshaw, and guide him to a third straight victory.
The same crew will pilot the train in the Tour Down Under, but when it comes to the general classification, the team can freelance a bit more than in previous years.
"The Tour Down Under is very important to us," Frison said. "It's the first race of the WorldTour and the faster you can win on that level, the better for the team and the riders. That takes off the pressure. That's why we want to win a stage as soon as possible.
"After that we will aim for a second one and it would be totally amazing if we could also win a third stage like was the case last year. The race has become tougher than the past years, in theory I see three opportunities for a bunch sprint. It's always nice to win the criterium in the run-up to the Tour Down Under, after all it's the first confrontation between the sprinters, but that race isn't a goal in itself."
Greipel can count on his final lead-out men, Jens Debusschere and Jürgen Roelandts, while Adam Hansen, Marcel Sieberg, Olivier Kaisen, and neo-pro Stig Broeckx do the lion's share of the work before the sprint. Frison says the riders other than Greipel can take their chances in the harder stages, which could favor Roelandts. "The GC isn't a goal for us, but it wouldn't be the first time that someone who doesn't specifically aim for it ends up high."
Lotto Belisol for Tour Down Under: Stig Broeckx, Jens Debusschere, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Olivier Kaisen, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg.