All national championships are important to teams and individual riders, but it's fair to say that Belgian super team Quick-Step Floors put an extra emphasis on winning the Belgian national jersey each year. The team's plans were foiled in the road in 2017 by AG2R La Mondiale's Oliver Naesen, but Quick-Step are sending a strong contingent to the Belgian Championships to try and win back the title this year.
Lining up for the 223.6km race in Binche on Sunday will be Laurens De Plus, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns, Philippe Gilbert, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert and Pieter Serry. De Plus and reigning champion Yves Lampaert will contest the 43.2km race against the clock in Vichte on Thursday.
"Of course, it’s no secret that the Belgian Championships are very important for us," said team director Tom Steels. "Yves is the reigning champion and looking at the route it should suit him. He proved in Suisse the condition is there, so everything comes down to how he’s feeling on Thursday. The level of the top riders is close and it will be a great fight, but if he has the freshness and performs at his best, he has a good chance of replicating last season’s result."
All hands will be on deck for the road race, trying to retake the jersey Philippe Gilbert wore for the first half of 2017 until Naesen took it from him and Quick-Step.
“The road race will be a hard one with a demanding, typical Belgian course, with some hard parts and cobblestone sectors," Steels said. "The finish is quite challenging too, as we know it from Binche. Our riders’ form is on point, but it won’t be easy to take home the tricolour. We have to be ready from kilometer zero, keep a sharp eye on things and be present where the action happens."