Mallorca, Spain was the setting for Omega-Pharma Lotto’s first team press conference of 2011, with Marc Sergeant joined on stage by two of his biggest hitters, Philippe Gilbert and Jurgen Van Den Broeck.
While new recruit Andre Greipel prepares for his Lotto debut in Australia at the Tour Down Under, Sergeant and his two Belgians were left to outline their goals for the season.
“I’ll start in Majorca and then do Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke and Gent Wevelgem. As usual, [I'll do] KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde and De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne,” said Gilbert as he outlined his plans for his pre-Classics schedule.
Gilbert has had two sensational seasons and last year triumphed in Amstel-Gold and Giro di Lombardia with success in two stages at the Vuelta a Espana and Piedmonte also added to his palmares.
“If I can do the same as last year, it would be fantastic, but it will be really difficult to achieve something like that again. If I can do the same, it’s good for everyone though,” he said.
Van Den Broeck is another rider desperate to repeat the results he managed last year. It was a breakthrough season for the 26-year-old who finished fifth in the Tour de France. He was often on the front in the Alps and Pyrenees but admitted that his tactics could change this year as he aims to creep his way closer to the top of the general classification.
“I’m getting a bit better at riding out of the wind. I still think that my climbing can get a bit better, and that goes for my tactics, too. I’m really confident. Maybe I just need to play a bit more poker with the rest of the guys at the front of the race though and ride off the front a bit more,” he said.
Gilbert, Van Den Broeck and Greipel should all start this year’s Tour de France – although Gilbert is slightly hesitant on how much racing he can do in one season, especially if he rides the Vuelta a Espana as part of his Worlds preparation.
“I want to get the yellow jersey before I retire,” Gilbert said.
Sergeant’s dilemma will be how he manages the talent now at his disposal at the Tour. In previous years, he managed to get the best out of Robbie McEwen and Cadel Evans for a short spell, but Gilbert and Van Den Broeck both agreed that the riders would help each other.
“We have Greipel and myself and in the first few weeks, I will have one or two chances, but then I can work for the team,” Gilbert said.
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