Lotto-Belisol have announced a youthful squad for two mid-week races starting on Wednesday at Le Samyn and from March 7 until March 9, the Three Days of West-Flanders with Kenny Dehaes the sprinter for both races while veteran Greg Henderson has been selected as he continues his recovery from knee surgery.
The 195km Le Samyn, which starts in Quaregnon, is a race for strong sprinters with five bergs in the first half of the route set to test the riders and after 110km, there are five laps in and nearby Dour which is where the races finishes.
During the laps, the race encounters the Côte de la Roquette and the Côte d'Audregnies to ensure that only the strongest sprinters will battle for the win with Frenchmen Adrien Petit (Cofidis)and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) favoured to take the win.
For Lotto-Belisol, Kenny Dehaes will take on the responsibility as the team's sprinter. Dehaes notched four wins including Halle-Ingooigem and the Handzame Classic in 2013 and in the absence of Andre Greipel has proven to be capable back-up sprinter to the German road race champion for the team.
Jean-Pierre Heynderickx, the Lotto-Belisol sports director, explained on the team’s website the rationale behind the selection.
"We bring a youthful selection to Le Samyn. We have also chosen to select Greg Henderson for the race. The goal for Greg is to take his place back in the peloton after the knee injury he suffered. The past few years Kenny Dehaes was always very close to the victory," Heynderickx said .
"But this year we will try to turn things around and win the race. A couple of fast riders should do the lead-out for Dehaes. Once again I am expecting strong teamwork from Cofidis. With Adrien Petit in their selection they have a big chance to win. Another one to watch is Nacer Bouhanni."
The team has two days off before the Three Days of West-Flanders starts with a short 7km prologue in Middelkerke. The second stage starts in Bruges and heads to Harelbeke while third and final stage, which is the longest of the stage race at 185km, starts in Nieuwpoort and brings the riders to the traditional finish town Ichtegem.
Returning to defend his overall title from last year which was set up with victory in in the prologue is Kristof Vandewalle who will be joined by Trek teammate Stijn Devolder while Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Julien Vermote will try his luck for overall.
Lotto Belisol are forgoing any gc ambitions to focus on a stage wins with Dehaes and Tosh Van der Sande although Heynderickx stated the team’s ambitions may change depending on the prologue results.
"The prologue of the Three Days of West-Flanders will be crucial. If the team rides a decent prologue, we can climb up the GC in the following stages by picking up some bonus seconds," he said
"Our main goal for the race is to have a good GC and strive for a stage win. With Kristof Vandewalle and Stijn Devolder the Trek team has two shoo-ins for the overall."
The final selection for Three Days of West-Flanders will be made following Le Samyn with the rider named for the Belgian race set to be trimmed.
Lotto-Belisol for Le Samyn: Vegard Breen, Sean De Bie, Kenny Dehaes, Greg Henderson, Boris Vallée, Tosh Van der Sande, Jonas Van Genechten and Dennis Vanendert.
Lotto-Belisol for Three Days of West-Flanders: Vegard Breen, Stig Broeckx, Sean De Bie, Kenny Dehaes, Gert Dockx, Greg Henderson, Boris Vallée, Tosh Van der Sande and Jonas Van Genechten.