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Stijn Devolder and Bjorn Leukemans are the Vacansoleil team's top men
Leukemans, Devolder and Marcato now leaders in Belgian races
Vacansoleil-DCM has drawn a very positive balance after Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, and is now ready to change the composition of its rosters for the Flemish Spring Classics starting on Wednesday with Dwars Door Vlaanderen. At the Southern European stage races, the leaders for the Belgian Spring offered their services to the general classification riders, thereby preparing themselves out of the spotlights towards their peak of shape.
Leading the team for the next few weeks will be Björn Leukemans, Stijn Devolder and Marco Marcato. They will count on the support of the riders who showed their form recently, such as Lieuwe Westra, Kris Boeckmans, Frederik Veuchelen and Mirko Selvaggi.
Björn Leukemans will fulfill the same race programme as last year and add up Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Prijs, Tour of Flanders, Scheldeprijs, Paris-Roubaix, Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Belgian was held back by crashes and punctures last year, but still managed a 13th place in Roubaix and top 10 finishes in Flanders, Amstel and Liège.
"I feel good at the moment and I know that my shape is good. As from Dwars door Vlaanderen I want to confirm my shape and if I can get a good result over there I will surely take the opportunity," commented Leukemans, who counts on his teammates to support him. "Guys like Ligthart, Lindeman and Boeckmans are still young but they understand their task perfectly and they already showed it in the early season."
Two-time Tour of Flanders winner Stijn Devolder showed himself as a domestique in the finals of Tirreno-Adriatico, which helped build his condition for the Belgian races ahead. "I was capable of helping out Hoogerland and Poels and I have a good feeling so far. The cooperation with trainer Marc Lamberts and building my condition went really well. I am ambitious for the upcoming races," said Devolder, the team's second leader at Dwars Door Vlaanderen on Wednesday.
Marco Marcato, who got sixth in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, put in a training camp with the Italian national selection before Tirreno-Adriatico. "At Tirreno I wasn't as good as I hoped but on the other hand in 2011 I peaked too early. In Waregem [finish of Dwars Door Vlaanderen - ed.] I will have my first test."
Lieuwe Westra on the other hand, second-placed in Paris-Nice after a stunning duel against Bradley Wiggins (Sky), is looking forward to the Three Days of De Panne from March 27-29, his "second goal of the season. After a busy week with a lot of interviews I had good training in France the last weekend. From now on, the complete focus is on De Panne, while at Flanders and maybe Roubaix I will help my teammates. After Flanders I will spend most of my time in Spain to prepare towards the hilly Classics."
Team director Hilaire Van Der Schueren was very satisfied with his riders' outcome so far. "This year we have the luxury of a big selection which makes it possible for almost everyone to ride a well-balanced programme. Our leaders for the next races were able to work out of the limelight while others got results. We have a strong collective which we need to use in the coming weeks," Van Der Schueren said.
Besides the Flemish races, he already looked ahead to the hilly Classics. "Wout Poels and Johnny Hoogerland started the season at a real high level and now get the chance to prepare the next races. Besides that, Thomas De Gendt is working towards the Giro d'Italia as his first big goal of the season."