Senne Leysen, behind Gianni Vermeersch, with Alpecin-Fenix ​​during the reconnaissance of Paris-Roubaix.

Senne Leysen, behind Gianni Vermeersch, with Alpecin-Fenix ​​during the reconnaissance of Paris-Roubaix. © BELGA

Senne Leysen and Jenthe Biermans are the people of Kempen who will be touring Italy for the next three weeks. For both riders it will be their second participation in the most important stage race. Another common factor: they will put themselves fully at the service of their squad.

Lieven Verheyen

“Due to the absence of Tim Merlier, the focus as far as our team is concerned is mainly on Mathieu van der Poel,” says Senne Leysen. “The first three days will be driven in Hungary. The opening stage starts in Budapest and ends at the Visegrad Citadel. Given the sloping arrival there, it is logical that we will do everything we can with our team so that Mathieu can take the pink leader’s jersey.”

If that succeeds, we will probably see the Kasterleenaar leading the pack a lot. “The opportunity is indeed real. After all, you don’t like to hand over a leader’s jersey. A class act like Mathieu will certainly wear that jersey with care. So if it comes to that, I do know what I have to do.”

Last year, the 26-year-old rider made his Grand Tour debut with Alpecin-Fenix ​​in Italy.

“That was an unforgettable moment. Especially because we immediately took a stage win with Tim Merlier. The Tour and the Vuelta later turned out to be real direct hits. As far as I’m concerned, I also think I can look back on a great debut. Despite the many manual labour, I didn’t really get into trouble in the mountain stages. What’s more, in the third week I was able to hang on for quite a while in the high mountains. That showed that my body was recovering well. Hopefully both myself and the team can continue the trend from last year.”

A good Giro would brighten up Leysen’s season, because after a nice Paris-Nice he had to stay ill for a long time. “I had only been home for a few days when I became a victim of bronchitis. Once I had recovered from that, the coronavirus struck. Because I had a fever, it was out of the question to cycle for ten days. Fortunately, I was cured just in time for Paris-Roubaix, where I was put on the list of participants due to illness of teammates. If that had not happened, the whole Flemish spring would have passed me by. Afterwards an internship in Spain, where we stayed in Hotel Syncrosfera (where specially designed rooms allow riders to simulate altitude stimuli up to 4,500 meters, ed.)I am ready for the Giro.”

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