Guillaume Van Keirsbulck says he’s relishing the freedom awarded to him at his new team, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, after taking victory at Le Samyn on Wednesday. The Belgian called the 2017 season his “year of truth” as he hopes to prove himself to be the talent he once showed.
At 23, Van Keirsbulck looked like the next big thing when he won the Three Days of de Panne in 2014 and earned himself a surprise slot on the Etixx-QuickStep Tour of Flanders squad. Little did he know, he would only lay claim to one more victory for the remainder of that season and the two following years.
His dry spell meant that Quick-Step chose not to keep him on for the 2017 season and he dropped down to Pro Continental level with Wanty-Groupe Gobert on a two-year contract. Whereas at Quick-Step, Van Keirsbulck played the support role, he says he is now enjoying the chance to lead a team and being on the top step at a race again.
"My last victory dates back to 2014, so it feels good to win again,” Van Keirsbulck said. “It was not always easy in recent years. Health problems have kept me from reaching my best level for a long time. Then I got into the situation where I was at races, and I had to sacrifice for others. In Wanty-Groupe Gobert I have more responsibilities. I'd rather be the leader; it is better to win yourself. This is the year of truth, and what I have shown today no one should forget quickly.”
Van Keirsbulck was one of the main protagonists throughout the wet and cold Le Samyn. The Belgian made it into almost all of the breaks in the latter stages of the race and was the driving force in the key one that saw him get away with four other riders. When it looked like the day might be done, Van Keirsbulck kept pushing and held the chasers at bay.
On a number of occasions, he tried to shed his one remaining break companion, Alex Kirsch. The WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect rider kept reeling Van Keirsbulck back, forcing him to try and outdo him in the finale. Fortunately for Van Keirsbulck, he had the legs to outkick the Luxembourg rider and claim the win. The success is a boost for Van Keirsbulck as he targets the main cobbled Classics later in the month.
"The morale is good for the group atmosphere… I feel all right, but I'm not 100 per cent yet. I want to continue my momentum because I there are some more goals on my calendar,” he explained.
“I want to get other wins. On Sunday I will race Dwars door West-Vlaanderen, then go to a training camp with the team in Benidorm to prepare for the upcoming races. After that, I will ride Nokere Koerse, Dwars door Vlaanderen and all the cobble classics. I’ll try to win every race if I get an opportunity."