LottoNL-Jumbo Sport Director Erik Dekker had to change his plans for the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, March 11 to 17, since Robert Gesink will not be able to travel to Italy. The overall classification is no longer a goal, but Dekker said, “We have other plans.”
“Our goal was top ten with Robert, but that’s going to be difficult now,” Dekker explained. “However, we are flexible and we’ll start the race with new ambitions. This race now will be very important for Sep Vanmarcke, Laurens ten Dam and Kevin de Weert to take the next step in their seasons."
Gesink will not compete due to a distressing period. “I’m glad my son Bram will leave the hospital today. The last couple of weeks, I was only concerned about my family. That’s why I won’t be able to reach my desired level in Tirreno-Adriatico. I made a false start in the Tour of Algarve and I didn’t gain the intensity I wanted. Now, with Bram back at home, I don’t have to worry that much anymore and I can focus on bike riding again. I’m going to prepare myself for the Tour of the Basque Country via other races.”
Challenge for everyone
Dekker sees a challenge for all of his riders. “Sep Vanmarcke needs to stay fit and prepare as well as possible for the classics. For Laurens ten Dam and Kevin De Weert, it’s important that they end the race better than they started. Rick Flens, Tom Leezer and Robert Wagner need to assist Tom in the sprints. Finally, there are some stages in which Paul Martens will have his freedom.”
First, the team races Strade Bianche this Saturday. “The race is sometimes compared with Paris-Roubaix, but actually it’s more like an unpaved Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” said Dekker. “With Sep Vanmarcke we have a serious contender, although the many climbs are not in his favour.”
Rick Flens looks forward to his first time on the white gravel roads between San Gimignano and Siena. “It’s a beautiful race to watch,” Flens explained. “The climbs are steep. On the bike is going to be very hard, much harder than in front of the television! My main task is to assist Sep. I’m excited.”
Team line-up Strade Bianche:
Rick Flens, Paul Martens, Sep Vanmarcke, Robert Wagner and Kevin De Weert.
Sports Director Strade Bianchi:
Team line-up Tirreno-Adriatico:
Martijn Keizer, Laurens ten Dam, Rick Flens, Tom Leezer, Paul Martens, Sep Vanmarcke, Robert Wagner and Kevin De Weert.
Sports Directors Tirreno-Adriatico:
Erik Dekker and Nico Verhoeven.