Omega Pharma-Lotto ready to bounce back after Evans loss
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Friday, February 05, 2010

Omega Pharma-Lotto ready to bounce back after Evans loss

by Bjorn Haake at 1:59 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

Omega Pharma-Lotto was presented in Belgium earlier this week. Its season was off to a bad start when Cadel Evans decided to unexpectedly leave the team and join the BMC squad. But the Belgian team has several other key riders they will now ask to step up.

First and foremost there is Philippe Gilbert. He saved the team from disaster in 2009 when he won four races in a row in October (Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours, Giro del Piemonte and Giro di Lombardia). "Milano-Sanremo is one of my goals, along with Vlaanderen, Amstel and Liège," he said to Sporza. "Then I will have to analyze the early part of the season."

Gilbert's strategy to be able to race all of the big Classics in the Spring is simple. "I won't be doing all the races in between the big ones." Some easy training and just trying to hold his form is how he plans to stay competitive over a period of five to six weeks.

Gilbert hasn't decided yet if he will ride the Tour, but one thing is certain. "The Worlds are important." This could prevent a repeat of his successful 2009 fall. "I don't know if it is possible to ride Paris-Tour and Lombardia because of the jetlag [the Worlds are in Australia -ed.]"

Teammates better

He estimates that this year he won't have to save the team by himself. "Juergen Roelandts looked good at the Tour Down Under and I trained with Greg van Avermaet. I think both will be better than last year."

Van Avermaet agrees and said he changed his training a bit. "I started a little calmer and as a result I feel fresher now." Van Avermaet hopes that the team will have a win much earlier in the season than in 2009, when they had to wait until late March for Cadel Evans to win a race. "But I don't feel pressure from the team. There is always some pressure that I put on myself to win."

Van Avermaet admits that Gilbert will be the main guy in the Classics if he has a good day. "But my main goal for 2010 is the Ronde van Vlaanderen."

The team's manager, Marc Sergeant, said Evans' departure in October made things difficult. "I couldn't really do anything anymore." But he hopes for some riders to step up and make 2010 more successful than 2009. "We had some younger riders - Roelandts and Van Avermaet - who were a bit behind expectations. Also Hoste, but in general, we have the potential."

Despite the departure of Evans, Sergeant thinks that Lotto can be present at the Tour overall. "Jurgen van den Broeck came to the Tour last year insecurely, not sure if he could help Evans. But he gained a lot of self-confidence. This year he can fully concentrate on the race. The Tour will be his most important race."

Van den Broeck agrees with Sergeant that a top ten is possible. "I have seen that I can do well in the mountains," Van den Broeck said. He was often seen riding with the main contenders until very late in the race. For now, the most important part for him is to train hard and not be nervous. "The Tour is still far away, but I came well through the winter."

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