A week after crashing heavily at the Tour of Flanders, Tiesj Benoot will lead the Lotto-Soudal team at Paris-Roubaix. Jurgen Roelandts will join the 22-year-old as a protected rider for the Belgian team this Sunday. The pair will be supported by Andre Greipel, who has looked strong recently despite recovering from broken ribs.
Benoot went into the Tour of Flanders as a dark horse for the victory, but his race ended just past the halfway mark with him being taken to hospital in an ambulance following a heavy crash. As Benoot lay on the ground in visible pain, there was concern that his Classics campaign was all over. Fortunately, he escaped any broken bones, but his participation at the Hell of the North was still in doubt.
The young Belgian took to the cobbles again on Thursday for Lotto-Soudal’s reconnoitre of the Paris-Roubaix course, and he was happy enough to put himself forward for Sunday’s race. “Initially, I was most concerned about my shoulder, but it turned out my elbow was most badly injured. Yesterday I did a first long training, on Monday and Tuesday I did a shorter ride,” Benoot explained. “I didn’t feel so good yesterday, probably because of the medication. Also, my knee hurt; one of the bones is bruised. During today’s recon though I felt good on the cobbles and after a check-up by the doctor it was decided I will start the race. Something I hadn’t expected last Sunday.
“I have to wait [and see] what the exact influence of my injuries will be. During the recon, I pulled a few times, and that felt good. The condition seems to be still fine, but I would be a miracle if I am one hundred per cent in Roubaix. I don’t think I will be racing differently unless I am really bad. The first one hundred kilometres will tell a lot. I also have two more days to recover.”
Lotto-Soudal’s other leader Roelandt’s is also not at 100 per cent fitness ahead of Paris-Roubaix, after developing sinusitis following the Tour of Flanders. “The past two weeks I hap ups-and-downs what my health is concerned. It’s not quite as it should be yet. On Monday, the day after the Ronde, I had sinusitis. Yesterday I did a training ride and today was the recon. The last two days I feel that I’m getting better. I definitely won’t hide behind my health problems,” he said.
Roelandts made his Paris-Roubaix debut in his first season as a professional back in 2008. He didn’t finish that edition and wouldn’t return for two more years; his best performance would come in 2011 when he finished 14th. This year will be his sixth participation in the race, and he is happy about the rain that has been predicted for Sunday.
“I have been waiting for a wet edition of Paris-Roubaix for nine years, so for me, it may rain on Sunday. It would be better if it is wet all over the roads instead of only some wet spots. That would be more dangerous,” said Roelandts. “Paris-Roubaix is the toughest Classic on the calendar. In that race, there are a lot more opportunities to escape than in the Ronde for example. Just think of the edition of 2011, won by Vansummeren, when a group could ride away pretty early in the race and those riders battled for the victory.”
Lotto-Soudal team for Paris-Roubaix: Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison, André Greipel, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg and Jelle Wallays.
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