The world’s first all diabetes professional cycling team stay in Belgium this week for the five-day Baloise Belgium Tour looking for breakaway opportunities after a tough weekend of racing at Hageland and Elfstedenronde.
Australian Declan Irvine produced what could be considered a breakthrough performance in races he idolized as a junior rider, overcoming the challenge of being dropped on the cobbles in Elfstedenronde on Sunday to battle his way back in and finish just behind the sprinters in the peloton.
“Ah, I’m feeling pretty good after Sunday actually,” said Irvine. “I was happy to finish where I did, but straight after the race I was only thinking that we could have done better and that’s the main I thing I want to take into the Belgium Tour this week, that we can do better and keep improving every day and every race.”
French puncheur Charles Planet has struggled for some from recently and will be looking to change that situation this week and lead from the front alongside former Hungarian road champion Peter Kusztor and Brit Sam Brand with Irishman Stephen Clancy stepping in for the injured Andrea Peron.
“I think we learned some good lessons from the weekend’s racing,” said sport director Gennady Mikhaylov. “It was very hard for our guys, but no-one has ever said racing in Belgium is easy and we need these experiences to move forward and get this kind of racing rhythm in our legs.”
“We have five more hard days ahead of us now, with four road stages and four opportunities to get in the breakaway and show what we can do when we’re up the road. There’s been a couple of changes to the team due to Andrea still having a problem with his knee after Estonia, but we have the balance and versatility to achieve our goals.”
Swiss all-rounder Oliver Behringer returns after the recent Tour de la Mirabelle alongside American Logan Phippen who enjoyed his first outing on the Belgian cobbles and is looking forward to more action in the week.
“These first races in Belgium over the weekend were a great experience,” concluded Phippen. “It was an eye-opening experience for sure and surreal to be here in the bunch with the ‘Greats’ I have watched growing up, but a great experience nonetheless and I am happy to have these races under my belt and in my legs now that the Belgium Tour is upon us.”
“This week the priority for me is, for one, to deliver the job that is required of me for the team and the results we’re after and after that it will be continuing to gain the experience in the technical Belgian racing style and getting into the speed and flow of the Pro peloton. There is so much to learn and integrate into my own style and personality as a rider and I am looking forward to soaking those lessons up this week.”
The five-day race is made up of four classic road stages and one 11.2 kilometer individual time trial on the second day for a total of 693 kilometers. The race criss-crosses Belgium from the northern coast back inland to the finish in Beringen near the border with the Netherlands.
Sam Brand (GBR, 30)
Oliver Behringer (SUI, 25)
Stephen Clancy (IRL, 28)
Declan Irvine (AUS, 22)
Peter Kusztor (HUN, 36)
Logan Phippen (USA, 29)
Charles Planet (FR, 27)
Wednesday 9th June, Stage1: Beveren – Maarkedal, 175.3km
Thursday 10th June, Stage 2: Knokke-Heist, 11.2km (ITT)
Friday 11th June, Stage 3: Gingelom – Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, 174.4km
Saturday 12th June, Stage 4: Hamoir – Hamoir, 152.7km
Sunday 13th June, Stage 5: Turnhout – Beringen, 178.7km
— tnn to www.teamnovonordisk.com