Riders have already been racing in Africa, South-America and Down Under, now it is time to start the European season. That will happen next Sunday with the French opening classic Grand Prix La Marseillaise, a race of 148,1 kilometers. On Wednesday 30th of January the Etoile de Bessèges begins, a five days stage race in the same region. The first four days the stages have some hills that are perfect to set up a breakaway. On the final day there is a morning stage of 69 kilometers, in the afternoon an individual time trial of 9,7 kilometers.
Dirk Bellemakers, Maarten Neyens and Fréderique Robert already rode the Tour du Gabon and will now have to race in totally different weather conditions. Robert won two stages in Gabon and is put forward by sports director Marc Wauters to shine in these French races. The team is aiming for a stage win in Bessèges.
Marc Wauters: “Fréderique Robert is riding very well, he’ll be overjoyed after his two stage wins in Gabon. We look forward to see him on European soil. With Francis De Greef and Jurgen Van De Walle he has got some experienced guys to assist him. Fréderique has started excellent and he will definitely try to show it wasn’t a one-off. The others have a free role and can go in the attack. We are also looking forward to the second pro year of Tosh Van der Sande, we know he isn’t slow.”
“The final day in Bessèges there is a time trial, it will determine for a big part who will become the overall winner. We don’t really have a specialist in time trials in our selection, so our guys will have to attack in the other stages and hope that their breakaway can make it to the finish. That way they can of course get a high place in the GC, but we are first of all aiming for a stage win. The course is inviting to set up a breakaway. On the hills someone who is feeling good can try to escape.”
Selection Lotto Belisol: Lars Bak, Dirk Bellemakers, Brian Bulgaç, Francis De Greef, Maarten Neyens, Fréderique Robert, Jurgen Van de Walle, Tosh Van der Sande
Sports director: Marc Wauters
Stages Etoile de Bessèges:
Stage 1: Wednesday 30/01: Bellegarde – Beaucaire (154 km)
Stage 2: Thursday 31/01: Nîmes-Saint-Ambroix – Les Fumades (157 km)
Stage 3: Friday 1/02: Bessèges – Bessèges (152 km)
Stage 4: Saturday 2/02: Sabran – Pont-Saint-Esprit (154 km)
Stage 5: Sunday 3/02: Alés – Alés(69 km)
Stage 6: Sunday 3/02: Alés – Alés, ITT (9,7 km)