Jumbo-Visma is the new Quick-Step of the spring classics

‘Quick-Step? I haven't seen them. You probably saw more on TV,’ says Benoot.

Photo: Getty

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WAREGEM, Belgium (VN) — The Jumbo-Visma team is riding through the spring classics as if they are wearing blue kit with a Quick-Step logo on it.

Wout van Aert is riding as dominantly as Tom Boonen at his best and in the last few days, Tiesj Benoot and Christophe Laporte have proved to be more than capable of taking on the leader’s role themselves. Don’t be surprised if Benoot — fifth during his debut in 2015 — wins the Tour of Flanders in similar style as Nick Nuyens did in 2011.

On Wednesday, Benoot finished runner-up in Dwars door Vlaanderen, a one-day classic midway through the Flanders week. The 28-year-old Belgian rider was beaten in the sprint by a certain Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). The Dutch ace will share the role of top favorite for Flanders on Sunday with Wout van Aert. The difference between the two top favorites is that van Aert has a stronger team behind him.

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Laporte showed in Paris-Nice, E3 Saxo Bank Classic, and Gent-Wevelgem that he can ride a finale against the best riders. Benoot was part of the big crash on the gravel roads in Strade Bianche, a race he won in 2018. He had to stay off the bike with a knee injury but he’s clearly back just in time, although his bandaged knee showed some signs of blood on Wednesday.

“This is only my sixth race of the season. My knee is still bleeding a little. It needs a bit of time but it doesn’t bother me,” Benoot said at the finish of Dwars door Vlaanderen, on a chilly Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday snow was forecasted and Benoot hoped for foul weather on Sunday too during Flanders. “The colder, the better.”

Despite the lack of rain and really cold weather, Benoot showed that he can match the speed of van der Poel. The latter bridged up with Benoot in the final kilometers and easily out-sprinted him for the win.

“I knew it would be difficult. If I go at 2km from the line then I thought I was alone and suddenly find Mathieu on my wheel. Riding a finale against Mathieu isn’t easy. This is the second time for me. Back in 2019 when Mathieu won here I was there too in a group of five riders. Today Stefan Küng rode hard to bring us back which is a pity because you’ve got to make him do the work obviously. In 2019 it was Bob Jungels who brought me back. I’ve got mixed feelings about today but what I take along for Sunday is that I’m really good.

“On Friday and Sunday I indicated that I lacked some percentages, the depth, during the long efforts, but today that was good. I don’t think I’ve ever headed to the Ronde in a better shape,” Benoot stated.

When asked in which races he would have the chance to be team leader again he quickly set things straight. He was one of the team leaders on Sunday too. “It would be stupid to ride in support of Wout with all seven of us. Our strength is in the width, with very strong leaders,” Benoot said.

“My chances to win today would be bigger if Wout would’ve been around. It was a nice long finale. Just like I wanted it to be. I felt really good in the final.”

When asked about the favorites for Sunday, apart from those from the Jumbo-Visma team, Benoot referred to the obvious.

“Van der Poel. That speaks for itself,” Benoot said, adding that he wasn’t surprised to see him immediately perform at this level after his comeback from back and knee injuries.

“That’s no surprise. Apart from him, there’s the obvious guys. Stefan Küng was up there once again. Pidcock was up there, too, which was a big surprise to me. Ineos did a nice move before and on the climb Berg Ten Houtte,” Benoot said.

The Belgian rider was also able to see Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar on the Flemish roads. The Slovenian rider was always going to be a favorite in the Ronde but Benoot said that wasn’t so obvious.

“He was shaken awake today. From what I’ve heard he came really close after the Kanarieberg climb. If it’s not going uphill then it’s more difficult to close down a gap. Meanwhile, we were cooperating really well in our group. I think the best six riders were up front, apart from him and then you know it’ll become difficult. If he would’ve come back he would’ve spent a huge amount of energy but he remained dangling in between. He lacked course knowledge today, but obviously, he’s in great shape.

“Quick-Step? I haven’t seen them. You probably saw more on TV.”

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