The Belgian won a stage and finished second overall at the BinckBank Tour last month to suggest he was tracking for the World Championships next week. Fifth at the GP de Québec and GP de Montréal was further sign of his improving form with Wellens stating that on the morning of the GP de Wallonie that he put his hand up for leadership.
"I already felt great in the two WorldTour races in Canada, and I'm happy that I was able to show my good form and to translate it into a good result. We came here with three leaders, but I said this morning that I wanted to have a go for the victory," said Wellens.
With 40km to race, the peloton was blown to pieces as echelons opened up ad a 21-rider front group formed that included Wellens, and Lotto-Soudal teammates Tony Gallopin, Tiesj Benoot and Nikolas Maes. The attacks started to come thick and fast but it was Wellens' move with 16km to go when he went solo that would lead to his victory.
"I want to thank my teammates for all the work they did today. Tiesj and Tony were in a perfect position in the chasing group, the trainees worked hard in the early part of the race and Nikolas Maes gave it all in the echelon to build a large gap," he explained. "Our objective was to ride hard on the Côte de Lustin in order to come to the next climb with a much smaller group. The last sixteen kilometres felt like a time trial, I immediately tried to open a gap, and then I made sure it remained stable."
Wellens continued to pull time out on his rivals, arriving at the Citadelle de Namur 1:22 minutes ahead of teammate Gallopin with Benoot fourth and Jelle Vanendert seventh. The 26-year-old explained he knew he could take it easy in the finale and made the most of the moment, soaking in the confirmation that his preparation for Bergen is on track.
"Sports director Marc Wauters told me that I could enjoy the last three kilometres and that the victory was sealed," he said. "I trained really hard for this period, with an eye on the World Championships and I hope I'll be able to show the same kind of condition in the following weeks."
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