Benoot: It's like the first day of school at Sunweb

Spare a thought for poor Tiesj Benoot, who, despite enthusiastically describing his move from Lotto-Soudal to Sunweb as "like the first day at school", was forced to sit through his new team's kit presentation in a plain black tracksuit.

Unfortunately for the young Belgian, regulations dictate that he cannot wear Sunweb attire until January 1, but at least the former Strade Bianche winner had free rein when it came to discussing his motives for changing teams and his hopes for next season.   

"Being here feels refreshing," Benoot tells Cyclingnews after posing with a gaggle of guests and their selfie demands.

"It feels like new start, and like the first day of school. I love it. I've moved out of my comfort zone, but I'm excited."

Benoot has moved from Lotto Soudal, having spent his entire professional career to date on the Belgian squad. Still just 25, and arguably with his best years ahead of him, the pick of Sunweb's off-season acquisitions believes that his new team will provide him with an environment in which he can thrive.

"I think that this team has a really professional and scientific side to cycling, and that's something that really suits me," he explains. "The best teams in cycling are trying to improve in the same way, like Ineos and Jumbo-Visma. Cycling in general is changing. I was looking around at the beginning of the season, but it was my manager who talked to teams that were interested. Then, after the Classics, I talked to a few teams myself, but I wanted to make a decision before the Tour de France."

Ineos interest

One of the teams that was linked to Benoot earlier in the year was Team Ineos. The Belgian rider admitted, however, that no formal offer came from Dave Brailsford.

"There was some talk, but I never had a real offer. I also didn't want to wait, and in the end Brailsford couldn't make an offer, so I chose Sunweb," he says.

That decision has elevated Benoot to a senior leadership role in a team still smarting from Tom Dumoulin's departure, and while Benoot would never consider himself a like-for-like replacement, the Belgian believes that he can dovetail with Michael Matthews and bring home success in the Classics.

Tiesj Benoot will make the move from Lotto Soudal to Sunweb for 2020

Tiesj Benoot will make the move from Lotto Soudal to Sunweb for 2020 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Benoot is likely to start his 2020 season at the Opening Weekend in Belgium alongside Matthews, but already has designs on his main objectives for the year.

“I hope that I can excel in the Ardennes Classics. That's where I want to be on the top level," he says. "And it's the same for the one-week stage races. Then I want to also go to the Tour de France and try for a stage win. I hope that the team can also improve my time trial, too, with all the tests that they do and the equipment. I think I can podium and make a step forward in week-long stage races."

'There's no replacement for Dumoulin'

Benoot also has mixed feelings about the loss of Dumoulin to Jumbo-Visma. The Belgian was looking forward to racing for and with a Grand Tour contender, but he also understands that Dumoulin's departure creates a greater amount of opportunities for the rest of the team.

"There were already rumours of Dumoulin not being happy and maybe leaving,” he says when asked if he signed with the idea that Dumoulin would still be on the team.

"I knew that something was coming up. When he left, it was a disappointment in one way because I wanted to help him win a Grand Tour. I've never started a Grand Tour with a favourite, but, on the other hand, I didn't join the team because of Tom Dumoulin. For me, it's more important that Matthews is here because I really think that we complement each other for the Classics. It's an advantage for me that he's staying because in the Classics he can use his sprint and I have to attack. We can make each other stronger.

"For this year, there's no replacement for Dumoulin, but it's also really hard to replace someone like that," he adds. "The team now has different goals, and the focus is more on the Classics."

Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal), caked in mud, wins the 2018 Strade Bianche

Lotto Soudal’s Tiesj Benoot, caked in mud, wins the 2018 Strade Bianche (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Benoot has only won twice in his pro career – at the 2018 Strade Bianche and on the opening stage of this year's Danmark Rundt – but he remains a mercurial talent who's surely destined for greatness. His attacking nature and ability to compete in week-long stage races were already apparent at Lotto Soudal, but, come January, all of that promise will belong to Sunweb. Even better for them, he'll be wearing their kit.

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