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by Shane Stokes
March 31, 2018
Van Avermaet on Flanders: ‘I hope this year is my year’; Benoot ‘ready to go full on Sunday’; Degenkolb says Flanders leadership is for Stuyven, he will target Roubaix; Gilbert: ‘We are confident in the team’s strength’; Vanmarcke, Langeveld re-sign with EF Education First – Drapac; Brennauer: Even without Longo Borghini, Wiggle High5 ‘has more than one card to play’; Martinez released from hospital, will not race until concussion is gone; Commemorating Mike Hall; Video: Maniac Does Wheelies On An Exposed Beam 130 Feet High
Fifth in the Tour of Flanders as a neo pro, Tiesj Benoot has long been seen as a rider with the potential to be a Monument Classics winner. The Belgian is now 24 years of age and won Strade Bianche earlier this year, netting his first pro victory in style. Since then he has continue to ride well, netting fourth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, fifth in E3 Harelbeke and seventh in the Dwars door Vlaanderen.
He was one of the most aggressive rides in the latter race and is poised for a big ride this weekend. “It’s normal that I am one of the favourites for Sunday after my performances of the past weeks,” he said of Flanders. “I am not the main favourite though. Sagan and the Quick-Step team as a whole are one step higher than riders like Van Avermaet, Vanmarcke and me.”
Benoot’s chances are complicated somewhat by the absence of André Greipel, Jens Keukeleire and Nikolas Maes from the team lineup. “Greipel and Keukeleire could have been by my side in the finale. That’s why it’s in my interest that others get isolated,” he said. “Although that is not quite realistic for Quick-Step, as they have such a strong block.”
Benoot has a tactic in mind. “I’ll probably need to finish solo if I want to win, because most of the favourites are faster than me. I feel really good. The situation is a bit different now I have won Strade Bianche, because that has taken away the pressure. Of course that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to set a top result in the Ronde. The Ronde van Vlaanderen is the race of my dreams. I already want to win it since I was a child. We ride on my training course and as a neo-pro I immediately finished fifth. I am ready to go full on Sunday!”