Etixx - Quick-Step to Ronde van Vlaanderen
Etixx - Quick-Step has announced the selection that will participate in legendary Northern Classic, Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday. There are 19 Belgian climbs (Hellingen) in De Ronde, which starts in Brugge and ends in Oudenaarde after 264.9km. The most notable hellingen are at least partially cobbled and will be a factor in the final kilometers. The Koppenberg is climbed once with 45km to go and includes a max ramp of 22 percent. It was moved to later in the race in 2015, which gives riders less of a chance to recover before the next key climbs. The Oude Kwaremont (2.2km, 4.2% average gradient) is climbed at 153km to go, 53km remaining, and 17km to go. Finally, the Paterberg, only 400m in total distance but challenging nonetheless with its cobbled and steep characteristics, is ascended twice at 52km to go and 14km remaining.
At the start will be Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin, Stijn Vandenbergh, Iljo Keisse, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Yves Lampaert, and Nikolas Maes.
"I think at this point my condition is at the best it could possibly be going into De Ronde," Stybar said. "I think my condition has been very good for a few weeks now, and I hope now I have really hit the peak. Here we are a week after Gent-Wevelgem, a very hard race, and I am recovered. I have done well so far, but of course I want more. I want the cherry on the cake. So, I am ready for Sunday. This is now my third time racing Tour of Flanders. We performed the recon on Wednesday, which was nice to just refresh the memory. Today I rode the last 50 kilometers just to completely put it back in my mind and visualize the final. It's always good to reconfirm the parcours and fine tune the details. Of course now that people consider me as a favorite that changes my perspective of this race. Before it was just about racing and see what happens. Now, it is about racing to try and win. But it is not just me who can win in this team. We of course have Niki Terpstra and I, but we also have Matteo Trentin at the start and don't forget he beat Alexander Kristoff in a field sprint at E3 Harelbeke. He has also won two stages of the Tour de France. We also have Stijn Vandenbergh, and if he rides away solo there is a strong chance no one will see him again until the finish line. So we have four really strong guys, so we have several cards to play. I hope everyone stays safe, avoids any bad luck, so that we can arrive at the final with a chance to win. For sure it is sad Tom won't be with us. He won this race several times and when he is in the team he brings peace and calm with his leadership. We miss him and it is a pity he can't ride this race he loves. We will try to honor our teammate by doing our best to win on Sunday."
"My legs feel good today, but of course you can feel the tension as this is a special race," Terpstra said. "Last Sunday I felt really strong and I hope this Sunday I feel just as good. It was a good recovery week. The recon on Wednesday was important just as a refresher. We've done these climbs already in other races, it is just a different follow up from the climbs. Now we did it, and it is just about mentally preparing for Tour of Flanders. Last year I did well in the Northern Classics and I can only hope to have similar good luck in the next races. It's a shame we are racing without Tom Boonen but we are doing our best without him. We've already had some top places in the Classics and we hope on Sunday there is only one place, which is the top step of the podium. We've shown we can always be there in the final, we'd just like to add a victory to what we've done this year even if we are not the favorites. As for me, I started off strong in Qatar, and I've been doing well. But I still think I can do even better, as can the team. The whole team is ready for the battle on Sunday and we hope it can be a hard race. My strength is in a long, challenging race, and I think that is also the strength of our collective as a Belgian team. We work well together and we have a lot of good riders. Zdenek and Matteo are explosive riders, and Stijn and I can go for the long runs. It's nice to have different scenarios where we can come away with a win. We'll try our best and I cannot wait to be at the start line in Brugge on Sunday."
"I think we have a very strong team for Tour of Flanders," CEO Patrick Lefevere said. "At the start we have Niki, Zdenek, Matteo, and Stijn. If they find a way to collaborate together with the support of their teammates I think we are by far the strongest team. Alexander Kristoff and Geraint Thomas have entire teams behind them, so Katusha and Team Sky will certainly be controlling the race for those riders. But for sure I think we are the strongest outsiders."