Vacansoleil-DCM’s Classics squad building on Paris-Nice and Tirreno successes
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vacansoleil-DCM’s Classics squad building on Paris-Nice and Tirreno successes

by Ben Atkins at 6:39 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
Dutch team looking forward to the big northern races after best season start to date

stijn devolderAfter its best start to the year to date, putting it sixth in the WorldTour rankings so far, Vacansoleil-DCM is now looking forward to the northern Classics. The team’s performance in Paris-Nice - with Gustav Larsson, Lieuwe Westra and Thomas De Gendt all taking stages, and Westra ending the race a close second overall - has been the season highlight so far, with the Classics riders working hard for the climbers.

In the coming weeks however, those riders will be out for themselves.

“This year our team already showed that they have again made a step forward, said team manager Hilaire van der Schueren. “Furthermore this year we have the luxury of a big selection which makes it possible for almost everyone to ride a well balanced program. Our leaders for the next races were able to work in the shade while others got results. We have a strong collective which we need to use in the coming weeks.”

As well as proven Cobbled-Classic riders like Björn Leukemans, and two-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Stijn Devolder, the Dutch team is also aiming at the hillier races of the Ardennes.

“Wout Poels and Johnny Hoogerland started the season at a real high level and now get the chance to easily prepare the next race,” ven der Schueren explained. “Besides that, Thomas De Gendt is working towards the Giro d’Italia as his first big goal of the season, but meanwhile we saw him create and take a chance at Paris-Nice.

“After we succeeded at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico we will again look at our balance after Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”

Pim Ligthart was disappointed with his performance in Milano-Sanremo on Saturday, but the 23-year-old Dutch champion is happy with his form and wants to show himself in the big races coming up.

“My First Milan-San Remo was a disappointment because I took it to easy at Le Mànie, I tried to save power but in the descent I ended up behind the decisive break in the bunch,” he explained. “Eventually I went home with a new experience and good legs. I worked hard this spring to have my first peak of the season from this week until the Amstel Gold Race. At Tirreno[-Adriatico] I noticed that the shape was there to continuously support our leaders.

“I want to show my jersey in the upcoming weeks. It will be difficult to get a result in the big classics but in those races it is the team result that counts.”

Devolder has had a hardworking week at Tirreno-Adriatico helping out his teammates but, with tomorrow’s Dwars door Vlaanderen now on the horizon, the former Belgian champion is now thinking of his own ambitions.

“I was capable of helping out [Johnny] Hoogerland and [Wout] Poels and I have a good feeling so far,” he said. “The cooperation with trainer Marc Lamberts and building my condition went really well. I am ambitious for the upcoming races.

“I feel good at this moment and I know that the shape is OK,” he added. “As for Dwars door Vlaanderen I want to confirm my shape and if I can get a good result over there I will surely take the opportunity.”

Leukemans meanwhile, in his fourth season with Vacansoleil-DCM, feels that the team is getting better and better as his preferred races approach.

“I expect a team that will be very close and get results as a team,” he said. “Guys like Ligthart, [Bert-Jan] Lindeman and [Kris] Boeckmans are still young but they understand their task perfectly and they already showed it in the early season.”

One rider that Leukemans will be able to count on the support of is Italian sprinter Marco Marcato, who recently attended a training camp with his national team.

“The training camp with the Italian team was a great investment after which I came to Tirreno,” he explained. “At Tirreno I wasn’t as good as I hoped but on the other hand in 2011 I peaked too early. In Waregem I will have my first test and meanwhile I will focus on the races of over 250k.”
“In 2012 I will probably ride my second Paris-Roubaix ever in which I want to work for Leukemans,” the Italian added.

With the majority of his teammates looking ahead to the one-day races, Westra himself - by far the team’s most successful rider of the year so far - is continuing his focus on stage races.

“After Paris-Nice the Three Days de Panne will be my second goal of the season,” he explained. “After a busy week with a lot of interviews I had a good training racing in France the last weekend.”

In the Three Days of De Panne last year, Westra finished six seconds behind RadioShack’s Sebastian Rosseler, after the Belgian dominated the final time trial. With the confidence of his Paris-Nice experience behind him, the Dutchman wants to go one better this time.

“From now on the complete focus is on De Panne and at Flanders and maybe Roubaix I will help my team mates,” he said. “After Flanders I will spend most of my time in Spain to prepare towards the hill classics.”

Vacansoleil-DCM for Dwars door Vlaanderen
Björn Leukemans, Kris Boeckmans, Frederik Veuchelen, Stijn Devolder, Wouter Mol, Pim Ligthart, Marcello Pavarin and Marco Marcato.


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