After finishing his 2020 campaign with a flourish at the autumn Classics, Yves Lampaert returns to the cobbles this Opening Weekend, taking part in both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne as part of a powerful Deceuninck-QuickStep squad.
The Belgian rounded of one of the best seasons of his career last October with a victory at Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, having finished fifth at the Tour of Flanders and fourth at the BinckBank Tour earlier in the autumn.
Last year, he finished second at Omloop, narrowly losing out to Trek-Segafredo's Jasper Stuyven in a two-up sprint after attacking an elite group on the Muur van Geraardsbergen with Søren Kragh Andersen.
This time around he'll be joiede on the start line by Julian Alaphilippe, Kasper Asgreen, Zdenek Štybar, Tim Declercq, Florian Sénéchal and Davide Ballerini, while Álvaro Hodeg joins Lampaert, Asgreen and Štybar on Sunday. Cyclingnews caught up with Lampaert for a preview Q&A ahead of Opening Weekend.
Cyclingnews: How are you feeling ahead of your return to the cobbles?
Yves Lampaert: For me personally I think I will need Paris-Nice to be in really good shape. I'm quite good at the moment but I don't think I had the shape I had last year.
We will first see how the race develops, and then we are always flexible in our tactics. Let's see what's possible during the race. Maybe I'm in a break that goes to the line, I don't know. If necessary, I'll go to a support role but it's also possible that I can do a fine race.
CN: Last year was one of your best yet, ending with the win at De Panne. Do you feel like you've reached your peak as a rider?
YL: It was [a big step forward]. I think I showed that I'm able to always ride the final in the Classics and I hope to do it again this year. My best years should be around now and in this next two to three years there should come my best results, I hope.
CN: It looks like Deceuninck-QuickStep could have several leaders across this weekend's race. How does that work within the race?
YL: I think that, first of all, we have Julian Alaphilippe with us. He's our main leader at Omloop and for the rest it's dependant on the strength of riders on the day. We'll decide in the race after some miles what the tactics are going to be and who will play in the final.
With Hodeg, too, it's the good thing about Deceuninck-QuickStep. We can always race with different scenarios.
CN: Looking around the peloton, the new partnerships at AG2R Citroën and UAE Team Emirates look strong, while teams like Trek-Segafredo, Lotto Soudal and Team DSM also have several leaders. Is that something Deceuninck-QuickStep works into their plans?
YL: Not really. Last year, Van Avermaet [new at AG2R] was there on another team, and Trentin [new at UAE] was on another team. The rivals always stay the same, so we don't really think about that. We just go into these races with the thought that we are strong and that we'll do the best that we can.
CN: Aside from the Muur and Bosberg at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, what do you see as the most decisive sections across both races this weekend?
YL: At Omloop there are a few more, eh? At Molenberg it will be important to be in front, and on Berendries also. I think it will be the case to save energy when necessary and ride fast when necessary.
At Kuurne, we'll race hard on the Oude Kwaremont, and afterwards we can decide how we do it with Álvaro, if he's still three or not. Last year we won with Asgreen and the year before with Jungels both with solo attacks. So, again, we can go in different scenarios.
CN: The weather forecast looks better than previous years. How much of a factor will that be?
YL: It's a lot better this year. I think the races will be more 'locked'. It will all be decided in the final, I think.
CN: How important are both races, both for the team and in the context of the Classics season?
YL: It's always important race as an indicator – if you're on a good schedule or if you need to wake up and race differently. It's always important as a Flemish race, and for all the sponsors, too. But actually, every race is important for us, so it's not a big difference.
CN: Finally, which is your favourite race – Omloop or Kuurne?
YL: Hoh, Omloop is the old Tour of Flanders, so I think I'll choose Omloop. It's a really nice race with some hard climbs in it. Yeah, I think Omloop is my favourite of the two.
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