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The young Belgian emerged in 2019 as one of the hottest young prospects in the WorldTour, only to see his upward trajectory torpedoed by hip injuries and the COVID race stop in 2020. Racing out his final season with Jumbo-Visma last year, De Plus managed just four race days – although it was still enough to attract the attention of the Ineos powerhouse.
Though the recently-unproven 25-year-old will be on a team bus crowded with riches in 2021, he’s adamant he will have the freedom to reassert his potential rather than being relegated to the engine room.
“My role will not be as everyone thinks, I have ambition. We agreed with the team that I will still go for the grand tours and ride with the leaders. But in certain races I will be able to take my own chance,” De Plus told De Tribune podcast. “I have indicated that the Ardennes classics are close to my heart. The plan is to be good there and to get a free role.”
The young Belgian is one of a swathe of new talents arriving at the British squad for 2021 as the team further reinforces its bristling GC armory. De Plus joins Ineos Grenadiers in a season that sees David Brailsford’s squad also welcome stage racing stars Richie Porte, Daniel Martínez, and Adam Yates, along with do-it-all wunderkind Tom Pidcock.
De Plus is not fazed by the risk of being crowded out in a squad boasting more GC talents than it knows what to do with, and is confident he’s back in the shape that scored him victory at the Binck Bank Tour and top finishes at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Flèche Wallone in 2019.
“I trained the muscles around my hip well this winter,” he said. “Last month I completed a good training camp in Gran Canaria. This week [Ineos Grenadiers] leave for Gran Canaria again. I want to prove myself and show what I have to offer.”
Having accumulated next-to-no racing last season, De Plus is hoping to land back on track this year.
“I was very happy when I was allowed to put on the Ineos kit for the first time on January 1,” he said. “It gave me an adrenaline boost. I’m looking forward to be able to shine again this year, as in 2019.”