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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Maxime Monfort (Lotto Belisol)
Monfort aiming at top 10 in GC
The team will head to the start in Belfast on May 9 with stage wins at the top of its agenda. They will be without sprinter Andre Greipel, who is coming back from a shoulder injury. He was aiming to do both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France this year, but a crash in Gent-Wevelgem required surgery to his shoulder a month ago.
Instead, the team of Sander Armée, Lars Bak, Kenny Dehaes, Gert Dockx, Adam Hansen, Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande, Dennis Vanendert and Tim Wellens will aim for breakaways and sprint stages.
"A stage win is the main goal of the team," directeur sportif Bart Leysen said. "The past five years we were always able to take a victory.
"Kenny Dehaes is our man for the flat stages. Tim Wellens gets a free role. He shouldn't think about the GC, just try to join breakaways. Lars Bak, Adam Hansen and Tosh Van der Sande can also let a break come to a good end. It's the job of Gert Dockx and Dennis Vanendert to help prepare the bunch sprints. Next to that they can also protect Maxime. Sander Armée has to stay with Monfort as long as possible in the mountains."
Leysen thinks Monfort can realistically aim for a top 10 on the general classification. "Of course, he could also win a stage. The first individual time trial of 41.9 kilometers suits Maxime," Leysen said.
"The Giro will be decided in the final week, in the first two weeks we have to see that Maxime doesn't lose any time. For the team time trial on day one we definitely have the riders to end up in top 10. If we succeed in that, the Giro will have started well for us."
"On paper the first two Giro weeks are less tough than the past years. The final week is as hard as ever. According to me the stage to Val Martello, which goes over the Gavia and Stelvio, and the stage to Oropa are the most crucial stages. The last one has a climb to the finish with an average gradient of 11 per cent. The long transfers between the stages made the previous editions of the Giro extra tough. This year that's less the case. The organization has listened to the worries of the teams."