Vacansoleil signing Stijn Devolder: "I'm going for a third Tour of Flanders"
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Vacansoleil signing Stijn Devolder: "I'm going for a third Tour of Flanders"

by Jered Gruber at 7:35 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
The path to success in Flanders will not go through Qatar and Oman though - Vacansoleil not selected for opening races

Belgian champion, Stijn Devolder, is moving to the on the cusp of ProTeam status Vacansoleil squad for 2011, but don't expect things to be too different for the rider most at home on familiar roads.

Speaking with Het Nieuwsblad, the two-time Ronde van Vlaanderen champion and two-time Belgian national road champion confirms that there's one race above all others, and it's the focus of at least the first part of his season.

"I'm going for a third Tour of Flanders...If it were up to me, that's what I would pick. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way."

Normally, the path to Flanders goes through the Middle East for the Classics hopefuls. The hard, windy racing is an ideal early season test for the men of the cobbles, but Vacansoleil, despite taking overall victory at last year's Tour of Qatar, will not be on the start line at either Qatar or Oman.

Vacansoleil announced the surprising news today that the team would not race in Qatar or Oman, due to a desire by the ASO to give more teams the opportunity to participate in the two desert stage races.

Team spokesperson, Krank Kwanten, admits on Wieler Revue that the team was surprised: "It looks like six new teams will start compared to 2010. This is unfortunate, because we were actually assuming that we would ride."

The team is now looking at other possibilities, but Kwanten says that "the idea it to race in Mallorca or Italy," in February.

For the likes of Stijn Devolder, Bjorn Leukemans, and Johnny Hoogerland though, missing out on Qatar will be an early set back in their hopes of getting to top fitness in April. It's an unfortunate continuation of non-selections that has plagued the team over the past season. With the hopeful announcement of ProTeam approval, it would seem the hard times would come to an end, but already, the ugly face of non-selection has shown itself in 2011.

Devolder admits to Het Nieuwsblad that not being able to race in Qatar is a disappointment.

"I would have liked something more in the sun to prepare for the Belgian opening weekend [at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne]."

The winner of this year's Tour of Belgium isn't too worried though, there are quite a few races to choose from in the early months of the year.

"Maybe this year, I'll start Milano-Sanremo, if only to grind out the kilometers."

Devolder has previously shown himself capable over all terrains, flat, cobbled, hilly, mountainous, and time trials as well, so it's of little surprise that the Belgian hopes to take part in the Ardennes Classics as well. It's an arduous set of racing in April, but if he hits peak fitness at the right time, as he has a habit of miraculously pulling off just in the nick of time for the race he holds above all others, perhaps there will be some form left over for a solid run at one of the Ardennes classics.

"Like last season, I also plan to race the Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. There was that serious fall at Paris-Roubaix last year though, so I was not able to race them."

The coming season and a new team apparently has the mercurial rider in an expansive mood. Devolder has been notorious in the past for racing poorly throughout the spring, winning Flanders, and then racing poorly for the rest of the year. The loud complaints of former director, Patrick Lefevere, must have finally hit home, because the 31 year old has a lot of goals in front of him - even the World Championships. Next year's edition in Copenhagen doesn't interest him too much, but 2012's World Championships in Valkenburg have certainly piqued his interest.

It has never been much of a question - a properly functioning Stijn Devolder could win a lot of bike races. The aggressive, powerful rider has shown brilliance in fits and spurts throughout his career. Perhaps, 2011 will be a season where Devolder begins to show a more consistent performance throughout the whole year. If that's the case, Vacansoleil can count on a lot of success in the months to come.


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