Stijn Devolder hoping for a solid Vuelta a España
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Stijn Devolder hoping for a solid Vuelta a España

by Kyle Moore at 9:40 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Belgian ready to silence critics

Stijn DevolderStijn Devolder, in his first year with Vacansoleil-DCM, feels he has finally put poor health and tragedy behind him, and he says he is ready to ride well in the Vuelta a España. After moving to the Dutch team from Belgian team Quick Step, Devolder is still without a quality result in the 2011 season. A sixth place in the Belgian road championships is currently what Devolder can hang his hat on, but the Belgian is looking to change that when the Vuelta starts tomorrow.

“I am focused on having a great Vuelta. What’s in the past is in the past,” Devolder explained to Het Nieuwsblad. “Since the Tour of Belgium [in June], I have gotten my head back.”

Disagreements with Quick Step management over training and race schedules eventually led to Devolder’s exit from the Belgian team. The 31-year-old built a solid résumé at Quick Step, winning two Tours of Flanders, a Belgian road championship, a time trial national title, and two editions of the Tour of Belgium. But for the past few seasons, Devolder has been viewed as inconsistent at best.

When Frederiek Nolf died in his sleep during the 2009 Tour of Qatar, Devolder took the loss of his friend very hard, and dedicated his Flanders win to the young Belgian that year. Devolder was also close friends with Wouter Weylandt, who passed away tragically on a descent at the Giro d’Italia this year.

“I was floored by the death of Wouter Weylandt,” he admitted. “I have been trying to accept his death. I put a picture of him in my suitcase, just like I did with Frederiek Nolf.”

As he gets ready to start his first grand tour of the season, Devolder finds added comfort in the presence of his family, who has accompanied him to the start. “I’m glad my family is here. They will stay until Monday,” he added.

“After Flemish weather, they enjoy the Spanish sun. Before the start of a big race, I like them to be here three days in advance. Their presence is calming. They give me something to do.”

Just two years ago, cycling pundits were wondering if Devolder could turn his prowess in the cobbled classics into possible overall contention in a three-week race. After settling on a classics-only approach to training, Devolder seems confident about his chances in an especially mountainous edition of the Spanish Grand Tour.

“I don’t know what [kind of objective] I should pursue,” he mused. “After the fourth day, getting into the Sierra Nevada, I will know if I should go for the overall classification or a stage win.”

“Five years ago, I was eleventh in the overall standings. Had I not worked for Janez Brajkovic [the two were teammates on the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team] in the first week, I would have finished in Madrid in the top ten.”

Vacansoleil-DCM seems to be targeting a high overall placing for its talented young Dutchman, Wout Poels. With the start just hours away, and the high mountains soon to come, Devolder believes he could be in the mix.

“I really don’t know where I stand against traditional favorites like Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Vincenzo Nibali, Bradley Wiggins, Joaquim Rodriguez, or Igor Anton,” Devolder concluded.

“Can I aim that high? I hope so.”

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