Garmin-Barracuda's Johan Vansummeren is currently starting his 2012 season at the Tour of Qatar, and satisfied with his winter preparation. Looking forward to the year's highlights, the Belgian Spring Classics, the Tour de France starting in Belgium and the Worlds in the Netherlands, he hoped to be able to race both the Tour and the Worlds but admitted that this may not be possible.
"I would like to be at the Tour as the Grand Départ is in Liège," the tall Belgian told Velochrono. "But it'll be difficult: there are so many good riders in this team... I will try to be in the selection."
If not, Vansummeren will console himself with a possible participation in the Vuelta and the Worlds, where he would love to bring Classics star Philippe Gilbert to a victory. "Valkenburg is only 50 kilometres from my home. I've worked for Gilbert at Lotto, we had a good laugh together. Even today in the peloton. I have no problem whatsoever with him. But first, I have to get selected. In this sense, doing the Vuelta will make things easier, more than doing the Tour..."
The surprise winner of 2011 Paris-Roubaix said that he enjoyed being a domestique as much as riding for himself. "I think I'm a bit of both, domestique and leader. I like to ride in a lot of races, like in the Giro di Lombardia for Daniel Martin, I don't have a problem with that. But there are also some races where I have my own ambitions. I like what I do, I'm happy doing it. That's what's important," the 31-year-old said.
However, he admitted that the idea of defending his 2011 Paris-Roubaix victory made him a little nervous.
"The start in Compiègne this year... I'm a little frightened thinking about it. A little stressed. To spend entire days with journalists... I'd prefer to be as calm as possible when I get there," said the 1,97m-tall rider.
After his victory in the Roubaix velodrome and the joy that came with it last year, Vansummeren had to re-focus in order to live up to the new expectations. "I experienced some great moments, but at one point, I gad to start working again. When you find it hard at the next race, people say: the winner of Paris-Roubaix is in the last group - it's a ridiculous situation. You have to be able to tell people: I can't, I have to work. Otherwise, in Belgium, you'll get invited to a party each evening!" he laughed.
Vansummeren's 2012 race programme also includes Milan-Sanremo and Monte Paschi Strade Bianche, where he hopes to be in the mix. "It's got nothing to do with Paris-Roubaix, it's very different. I've raced it before, but I was ill, I was in the last group (laughs). But I'll be there this year. It's a magnificent race, it's less extreme than the pavés - the only thing are the curves. You can't ride them in the same way as you would on the road, because of the gravel."