By Bjorn Haake
Despite being heavily criticised from all sides after a lacklustre performance in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday, Silence-Lotto is refusing to buckle under the pressure. Belgian champion Jürgen Roelandts was the leader in that race, but was unable to follow the attacks and ended the day in 61st position, 8:18 down on winner Tom Boonen of Quick Step.
The team's Sports Manager Marc Sergeant remained calm. "We don't panic. True, we missed Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne completely. But we were very strong on Saturday [in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad - ed.] and [Greg] Van Avermaet finished fourth. Without the crash [by Filippo Pozzato - ed.] he may have been on the podium."
Sergeant added that the team also raced well in the Memorial Samyn on Wednesday, where Roy Sentjens made the winning seven-man move. The group split up in the final lap, with Sentjens taking fifth place, behind winner Wouter Weylandts (Quick Step).
Sergeant explained to Cyclingnews that most riders are on a training programme headed by Tom Steels. The quadruple Belgian champion collects the data, such as power output, and analyses it using software from Powertec. "I don't have any questions with regards to the programme," Sergeant said.
Some riders still have their own coaches, such as Roelandts. "He has been working with him for six or seven years," Sergeant said. It would be difficult to cut the ties now. Steels and Roelandts's coach are also in frequent contact with each other."
Gilbert in the Ronde
One lesson learned from the Kuurne race is that it is best to send the strongest team, which is why Philippe Gilbert will end up racing in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. It was an idea brought on by Gilbert over the winter. "Later he thought it would be too much with all the Ardennes Classics," Sergeant said.
The sports manager sees the strong teamwork from Rabobank and Quick Step and emphasised that Leif Hoste and Greg van Avermaet need to get all the help in the Ronde. "That means we will send the strongest squad and Gilbert is in it."
Gilbert will skip the Vuelta al País Vasco in order to do the full Belgian programme. "He can also do well in the Amstel Gold race, which is like Flanders without the cobbles - that will be even better for him." Thomas Dekker is the other rider with high hopes for a good Amstel result. The Dutchman finished fifth last year.
Sergeant was looking forward to the team's next races, which are Paris-Nice and Milano-Sanremo. He was focused on the task ahead, not getting disturbed by some of the media reports, such as potential monetary fines against some of the riders. "This was never talked about," he said.