Lotto Soudal's Steff Cras has expressed his surprise and delight at having been named as one of the Belgian WorldTour team's eight riders for this year's Tour de France. The squad was announced last week, and also includes Philippe Gilbert, Thomas De Gendt, John Degenkolb and sprinter Caleb Ewan, who it will be Cras' responsibility to try to look after during the French Grand Tour, which will this year run from August 29-September 20.
"It's nice that the team has given me their confidence, even though I have hardly raced for Lotto Soudal in 2020," said Cras, who began his season with his new team at the Challenge Mallorca in Spain in late January ahead of racing the UAE Tour.
"The team was looking for a cyclist of my profile for the eighth place in the team – someone who can help during the flat parts and who can also stay with Caleb during the mountain stages," he explained. "Caleb is our absolute priority in the Tour. During the first mountain stages, I won't leave his side, and maybe I'll be able to save some energy, which might be useful during the transition stages."
While it will be Cras' first Tour de France, it will be the second Grand Tour of his career after riding the 2019 Vuelta a España for former team Katusha-Alpecin, which the Belgian finished in 76th place overall.
Ewan, meanwhile, made his Tour debut last year with Lotto Soudal, and quickly found his rhythm by winning three sprint stages.
"Earlier this year, I rode with Caleb Ewan at the UAE Tour, and it worked very well," said Cras. "Caleb is a true leader. You understand immediately what he wants. I am already counting the days until the start of the Tour. This really is a dream come true."
Lotto Soudal have joined Dutch WorldTour team Jumbo-Visma in already confirming their eight-man squad for the Tour. As well as Cras, Gilbert, De Gendt, Degenkolb and Ewan, this year's Lotto Soudal squad is completed by Tim Wellens and Ewan's lead-out riders Roger Kluge and Jasper De Buyst.
"Why wait any longer? All our riders will be ready to start the competition," said team general manager John Lelangue. "There is no point in keeping everybody in the dark about the programme. On the contrary, it gives everybody peace of mind."
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