Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) says that his injured shoulder still occasionally hurts but will not slow him down at the Vuelta a España. It will be the Belgian's first appearance at the Spanish race and comes six weeks after he dislocated his shoulder in a crash at the Tour de France.
Benoot fell heavily during the final kilometres of stage 4 of the Tour and, while he finished the stage, he crossed the line with blood dripping down his face. He suffered multiple cuts and bruises to his face - for which he received stitches - ribs and back, as well as a second-degree dislocation of his shoulder.
Benoot confirmed the following day that he would leave the race, saying that it would be ‘irresponsible’ to continue with his injuries. After a few days off the bike, he returned to training and came back to racing at the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg last week. It was a positive step for the 24-year-old, who is also targeting the World Championships next month.
"As soon as I started to feel better, I left for the training camp in Livigno, where I trained well and prepared myself properly for the upcoming races - with the Vuelta and World Championships as main goals. I do feel my shoulder from time to time, but it doesn’t bother me when I race. It will definitely not slow me down," Benoot said on the Lotto Soudal website.
"Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how well I can perform in a three-week stage race, but it will soon become clear as the second stage already features a difficult finish and the fourth one concludes with a first-category climb. I’ll quickly know where I’m at, but I’m feeling well and believe to be in shape again."
The Vuelta will be Benoot’s first lengthy stint of racing in Spain, with his trips to the country normally reserved for the Mallorca Challenge at the start of the season and occasional visits to the Clásica San Sebastián. His only previous Grand Tour experience has come at the Tour de France, which he has ridden twice.
Benoot will be part of an all-Belgian Lotto Soudal line-up at the Vuelta a España, after Victor Campenaerts replaced the ill Tomasz Marczynski. After four victories in last year’s race, the team is targeting stage wins once again and a few days in the opening week have piqued Benoot’s interest.
"Taking a look at the roadbook, I noticed that there are many opportunities for the breakaway - one of the main differences with the Tour de France," said Benoot. "Another difference with the Tour de France is probably the heat in Spain. I prepared myself well for hot temperatures so that the heat won't be a problem. And, apparently, there’s also less stress in the Vuelta than there is in the Tour. Especially in the first week - a reassuring thought.
"I’m not targeting any specific stage yet, but there are certainly several stages that suit me. I know that the second and fourth stage offer possibilities, but I’ll be taking it one day at a time. There are several uphill finishes or finishes after a descent in the somewhat more difficult stages, which will suit me. Of course, you can’t predict the race situation, but I’m feeling well and I definitely am looking forward to racing in Spain."