Following a breakthrough campaign in 2022 which has seen him podium Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Baloise Belgium Tour, Quinten Hermans is aiming to begin the beginning of the end of his time with Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux with more success at the Arctic Race of Norway.
The Belgian, who can count six other top-five finishes on his season palmarès as well as a stage win in Belgium, is taking aim at the general classification of the ProSeries race this week.
Stage 3's summit finish on Saturday is in his sights as he hits the final months of his contract with the Belgian squad ahead of a move to Alpecin-Deceuninck for 2023.
"I'm trying. I'm going to try to," Hermans told Cyclingnews on Friday. "It's not going to be easy but yeah, for sure I want to try and do a good GC. Yesterday already cost me a lot of energy with keeping warm so we'll see.
"It should be good for me," he said of the 5.4km summit finish at Skallstuggu. "It's just hard to look at different teams and to see which teams and riders are going to want to go for GC already. Some guys I was looking forward to seeing tomorrow were set back a little bit or lost time yesterday, so it's going to be maybe a surprise tomorrow."
Hermans has spent much of his career so far focussed on cyclo-cross over road racing, having raced at Continental level with Telenet Fidea Lions (now Baloise Trek Lions) before moving to his current team in 2020.
After completing what has been his most comprehensive road campaign yet this season, Hermans' career is only going one way from here on, he said. Cyclo-cross is going to take a back seat to his ambitions on the road.
"I can still do cyclo-cross, but it wouldn't be my main [focus], don't expect so much for me anymore in cyclo-cross. OK, I take it very seriously but it's just like a nice extra," Hermans said.
"It's just like everything falls into place a little bit more this year. It's not that I gained like five per cent extra, it's just that everything has worked out a little bit better. That makes a huge difference in pro cycling."
Having made his Grand Tour debut at last year's Giro d'Italia (fifth from the break on stage 15 was his top result), Hermans hasn't been selected for a Grand Tour this time around. His omission from his team's Tour de France squad came as a surprise, with the 28-year-old saying at the time that it "had nothing to do with sport" as rumours circulated about his future transfer.
Despite that disappointment, Hermans has been handed "a good programme" to close out his three years at Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, with the Tour de Pologne and the Arctic Race leading into the Italian Classics in September and October.
"That was kind of a pity," he said when asked about his lack of Grand Tour racing in 2022. "I was supposed to do the Tour and that got away. The Vuelta was never really an option to do.
"After this I asked for a clear programme until the end of the year. The team's been very honest with this and got me a good programme until the end of October. OK, I think this is good and we continue with a contract until January 1 together and they treat me well and I just went to give them back.
"It's been a nice three years. For sure I think you can really see that we took a step forward the last two years. Just like with the atmosphere in the team keeps continuing to get better and better. Once you have this winning spirit from the beginning of the season it keeps continuing and it's nice."
Hermans was pessimistic about his chances of making Belgium's squad for the UCI Road World Championships in Australia but was more hopeful about his upcoming three seasons at Alpecin-Deceuninck, and his continued development in the hill and medium-mountains.
"The guys there were just really interested, and I felt a lot of confidence," he said of his new team. "I have a very clear programme. So, for me it was all these little things which made a difference.
"I think I still can put a step forward in this," he added, referring to his climbing. "Also, the team decides which calendar I race, so they're going to try to put me in the best races for me as possible. We'll see what comes out."
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