For a whole season, the race in the race has been the battle for preservation in the World Tour after this season. Lotto-Soudal hopes to keep his place and has to deal with, among others, Education First and the Israel-Premier Tech of Jenthe Biermans. After a strong Giro, De Gelenaar hopes to be important again this week in the Baloise Belgium Tour.
The Baloise Belgium Tour starts today in Merelbeke and ends on Sunday in Beringen. The queen stage will take place on Saturday around the hills of Durbuy. “The winner will be announced after Saturday,” Biermans says. “Who is my top favorite? No idea, actually. At least not Jenthe Biermans.” (laughs)
The Israel-Premier Tech rider was also not originally scheduled for the Baloise Belgium Tour. “But due to the death of a family member, my program has been adjusted in recent weeks and I did not drive Heistse Pijl en Dwars through the Hageland. By also having fewer training kilometers in the legs, it will also be suffered in the first stage today. Although I have enough confidence to carry out my duties after finishing the Giro.”
In that Tour of Italy it was Biermans’ job to provide a good lead-out for sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo. “Despite the fact that we ended up without a stage win, I still felt a lot of appreciation from him. So much so that he insisted on the team management that I would become his regular pawn in the sprint train. Honestly, something like that flatters your ego. And of course I now want to do even more for him in the coming races.”
Although that will only be after the Baloise Belgium Tour. Nizzolo is not there this week. Another striking feature of this Belgian stage race: the riders were already introduced to the public and sponsors last night, the evening before the opening stage.
“That is a tradition that the organization has been holding on to for several years. On the one hand, I understand that this gives her an extra day to invite VIPs and gain extra publicity. On the other hand, it does lead to an adjustment in our preparation. For example, we met with our team yesterday in a hotel in Roeselare. From there it was an hour’s drive to Merelbeke. All that to have to be on stage for five minutes. That is certainly not ideal, but again, I understand the organization and sponsors.”