Sergeant: Injury means Benoot must be prepared to give up Strade Bianche defence

'We'll make a decision on Thursday' says Lotto Soudal manager

Lotto Soudal will wait until Thursday before announcing whether Tiesj Benoot will attempt to defend his Strade Bianche title. The Belgian crashed out of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and injured his left knee, opening up a wound that has not properly healed since a crash on stage 7 of the Vuelta a España last year.

Benoot was in strong form before his crash and is desperate to make the start line for Strade Bianche. However, with teammate Tim Wellens not participating in the majority of the Belgian Classics, Lotto Soudal are keen for Benoot to take a long-term view over the spring, rather than fixate on one race.

"We’ll make a decision on Strade Bianche on Thursday, most likely. It’s a long campaign, though, and we can’t take the risk for just one race," team manager Marc Sergeant told Cyclingnews on Monday in Belgium.

"It’s also a dirty race, but in his mind, as the former winner, he wants to participate. We need to be honest, though, with ourselves, and he needs to be prepared to give it up, if necessary."

According to Sergeant, Benoot’s recovery is progressing well and the team manager is hopeful that his lead Classics rider can compete. However, caution is key, especially given the fact that Lotto Soudal are not blessed with an array of options for the remainder of the Spring Classics.

"Obviously, it’s a sad story because he was good and for once we had two guys up front," Sergeant said. "I hope that happens in the future, but since Tim Wellens’ only Flemish race is that one, it falls on Benoot for the rest of the Classics. So I hope that the wound will heal fast so he can participate in Strade Bianche and then at Tirreno.

"It’s step by step. On Saturday they did a really good job after the crash. They put in some micro-stitches. That reduced the size, and hopefully that will make the healing process faster. We have to see though, day by day."

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