Jumbo-Visma's new signing Tiesj Benoot has revealed his happiness at having the chance to work alongside Wout van Aert in the Classics as he looks to form the one-two punch with the Belgian that he didn't quite find at his two years with Team DSM.
The Belgian, who has a Strade Bianche win and top five at the Tour of Flanders on his palmarès, has evolved into more of an all-round threat during his career, scoring top-five finishes in Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Tour de Suisse in recent years.
He'll take on Tirreno-Adriatico again this season, but making things work in the cobbled Classics with Van Aert, Mike Teunissen, and fellow newcomer Christophe Laporte is a major goal.
"I've often missed that in my career, to be part of a team with one of the big favourites or with a fast guy who nobody wants to go to the finish," Benoot said in an interview with WielerFlits.
"At Team DSM I hoped it would work out with Michael Matthews but in the one spring we rode together I didn't race much after Paris-Nice. And Wout is a step higher than Matthews.
"I realise very well that there will be many races in which I sacrifice my own chances. But if a situation arises where I can go my own way then it will be a bigger chance than I ever got before. Then it will be up to me to take it."
Benoot noted that in a race like Gent-Wevelgem, which features a flat run to the finish, it makes sense for the Classics squad to put themselves in service on Van Aert. For harder races like the Tour of Flanders, however, it will about the team going as far as possible together, especially with the might of QuickStep-AlphaVinyl to consider.
"At the Tour of Flanders it's not the intention to have six guys in front with Wout in the wheel. We have to get to the final with as many as possible and then play it out. Both Wout, Christophe and I finished in the top 12 last year. Mike wasn't there. That opens up perspectives for everyone.
"Wout is a leader who can handle it very well and we all have a lot of respect for him. It's better to race with him than against him. Everyone can make the 'click' quickly if necessary, or even if there are orders from the car. But the fact remains that last year in the Monuments it just wasn't there – Wout was alone against four from QuickStep. That shouldn't happen again."
Benoot will kick off his Jumbo-Visma career at the end of February with the Opening Weekend of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. A trip to Italy for Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico will follow before he tackles northern Classics – the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, and the Ardennes triple.
He'll share four of those race days with Van Aert, with whom he struck up a friendship while rooming together at the Tokyo Olympics. Hearing about how Jumbo-Visma worked appealed to Benoot, though it wasn't a case of Van Aert recruiting him from DSM, he said.
"After that we went on a training camp to Switzerland. It clicked. Wout talked to me about how they work at Jumbo-Visma and that appealed to me, even though at the time I thought there was no question of a transfer. I called him before I made my decision because I wanted to be sure he supported it, but it was no more than a confirmation."
Benoot said that the reason for leaving DSM before the end of his contract was because their visions were "too far apart", noting that it was hard to agree a way forward if both sides are set in what they want to do.
He said that, so far at Jumbo-Visma, he's had a confirmation that the way the team works is what he thought, saying that things are done in a different way than at DSM.
"I've mainly had a confirmation of what I already knew before. I am convinced that it is the team that can get the best out of me as a rider," said Benoot. "If I have ridden here for a few years, I can say I got the maximum out of my career.
"I'm not talking about the financial aspect but about the coaching. Here every detail is taken into account – the nutrition programme is up to scratch and world class experts are consulted in all areas. Here it's done in a different way [to DSM]."
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