Lotto Soudal have named their eight-man team for the 2018 Vuelta a España, with Tiesj Benoot and Thomas De Gendt among the line-up, and it's clear from their selection that the team is keen on stage victories.
"Of course, we'll have to wait until the official start list has been confirmed. If there are a lot of sprinters on the start line, the breakaways won't get many chances to stay clear, and so it'll probably be better not to attack," said directeur sportif Mario Aerts. "We'll take it one day at a time. Either way, all eight of our riders will get the chance to animate the stages, and, hopefully, we can take one or two stage wins home with us."
The Belgian outfit had a bumper 2017 Vuelta a España, racking up four stage victories across the three weeks of racing. De Gendt was one of those to take home a win, taking victory in Gijon on stage 19, giving him a victory in each of the three Grand Tours.
The team's other two stage winners, Tomasz Marczynski and Sander Armée, have also been named in the squad for the Spanish race. Marczynski got the team's purple patch up and running with his success on stage 6, and went on to win another stage in the second week, while Armée added his in week three.
Benoot, meanwhile, is in the team after crashing out of the Tour de France in the opening week of racing.
Tosh Van der Sande, who recently extended his contract with the team, will ride his second Grand Tour of the season after already contesting the Giro d'Italia in May, while neo-pro Bjorg Lambrecht will get his first opportunity to ride a Grand Tour.
The experienced Maxime Monfort and Jelle Wallays complete the line-up.
Lotto Soudal for the Vuelta a Espana: Sander Armée, Tiesj Benoot, Thomas De Gendt, Bjorg Lambrecht, Tomasz Marczyński, Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Wallays.
Mitchelton-Scott opt for youth over experience at Colorado Classic
"I was very excited and actually quite surprised when I heard the news that I could have the opportunity to race for the team in the Colorado Classic," said 24-year-old Xiaolong. "It's always been a big dream for me to ride for a WorldTour team.
"I hope I can follow the team plan in the race, get myself into the atmosphere of the team, and learn as much as I can."
Meanwhile, Esteban Chaves' younger brother, Brayan Chaves, will line up in Colorado to ride his second race with the team, having also ridden the Tour of Utah as a stagiaire.
Like Xiaolong, the younger Chaves brother is already part of the Mitchelton-BikeExchange set-up, but hopes to impress team management enough to link up with Esteban in the senior team as soon as possible.
Among the youthful line-up, Sam Bewley, at 31, is the squad's elder statesman on this occasion.
"Four of us have just raced the Tour of Utah, and I think we all responded pretty well to that kind of racing, so I would expect us to be in an even better place here in Colorado, especially now we have had the exposure to high-altitude racing," Bewley said.
"Damo is coming in to join us after crashing out of the Tour de France," the New Zealander continued, referring to the team's next oldest rider at the race, 26-year-old Damien Howson. "His experience, especially on the more selective days, will be very useful for guys like Rob [Power], who has the chance to get a good result here."
Directeur sportif Dave McPartland was also looking forward to seeing what the team could do.
“It's great for us to have Chinese stagiaire Sun Xiaolong here from our development team, and of course Brayan will be competing in his second race with us after Utah," said McPartland.
"There's some good versatility in the team, and we're looking forward to supporting Rob to a high result on the GC, but we’re in no doubt that it will be tough – especially the uphill time trial on stage 2 and also the 'queen stage' the day after."
Mitchelton-Scott for the Colorado Classic: Sam Bewley, Brayan Chaves, Lucas Hamilton, Damien Howson, Rob Power, Sun Xiaolong
Waeytens to Cofidis
Veranda's Willems Crelan announced on Wednesday that their rider Zico Waeytens will move to the French Professional Continental team Cofidis in 2019. Waeytens had an injury-marred season but said in the team press release that he had enjoyed his time with the Belgian team.
"After a bad year, I got a very nice proposal from Cofidis that I can't refuse," said Waeytens, whose contract with Veranda's is set to expire in December.
Waeytens joined Veranda's Willems Crelan this season, after having spent three seasons with WorldTour team Sunweb between 2015 and 2017. Before that, he rode for Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, beginning as a stagiaire in 2011 and staying with the team until 2014.
The Belgian rider didn't have the best start to his season in 2018 after fracturing his wrist during the second stage of the Etoile de Bessèges in February. He went on to race a full season, with his best performance being 15th at the Three Days of De Panne, and more recently he finished in the top 10 on the opening stage at the Tour de Wallonie.
Waeytens is currently competing at the BinckBank Tour, and said that he plans on giving his best for his current team all the way through to the end of this season.
"Despite my injuries, I have rediscovered the joy of cycling this year," he said. "I will still go for it 200 per cent in the autumn.
"It's certainly not my intention to leave the team without doing my best in the coming weeks. I will commit myself fully for the rest of the year. Hopefully we'll see the best of Zico Waeytens in the coming period. I'm going to perform as well as I possibly can."
Waeytens looked back on his season with Veranda's in a positive light, despite his injuries.
"I've always been very well supported by the team. That surprised me positively. There's always been a super-good atmosphere in the team, and I'm going to miss everyone. I'm looking forward to next year, but first I want to finish the season positively."
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