OCM Sports - Tweedaagse van Antwerpen, Edition #43
Hello OCM, I am Lance Armstrong from USA Postal Services in a whole new and challenging project and once again, time has come and the cobble and not cobble teams are ready to sign up for Tweedaagse van Antwerpen. This is a small test I hope surprises OCM, and of course I have a special guest to make it better. Edition 43 has the current twice-in-a-row winner Sherard Rolf from Navarone Cycling Team confirming his participation for this new edition, holding the number 1 behind his back. Will Sherard enter into TvA’s history by winning his third yellow jersey in a row? Manager wronskian thinks the first two wins were pure luck, removing a lot of pressure.
But other teams, with strong captains and support, are ready once again to stop the English gentleman, and we got some of his words in exclusive, ‘’I don’t consider myself as the main favorite. Mostly I had luck by winning some stages and gaining time in unexpected places, so weather and legs will be crucial once again. To me, the main favorites are Vidar Kleven and Jerardo Solano, if they confirm their participation,’’ Rolf assured.
And well, I am not an expert racing TvA, but luckily, I have a friend who is; I have to thank his boss as well, we know he has a very tight schedule. A legend of the cobbles, with an impressive palmares, and he will join me so we can hear the opinion of a real expert. So, with no hesitation is time to introduce him, former rider and captain of belgian team Comfius and trainer… Lucas Loudon!!!
(Short moment ‘’touching’’ elbows hehe)
‘’Welcome Lucas, it’s been a long time, eh?’’
‘’Thank you Lance. Yes, since that interview to write my biography,’’
‘’Yeah, that was pretty fun. So here we are at Hoogstraten, to do this podcast about Tweedaagse van Antwerpen, a tour you won twice in a row,’’
‘’That’s true. It’s gonna be an interesting race, just like the last two editions. I have been watching the race at home on OCM Sports (Official Race Channel of OCM) and well, last edition didn’t work for Comfius; so I believe the team will do a bigger effort to help Vidar Kleven to win the race,’’
‘’From one to ten, how would you rate Kleven’s performance during Edition 42?’’
‘’I believe his overall score was a six. Bad luck pursuit him during the whole race, but at least the team managed to win the Youth Classification with Miron,’’
‘’Good. So Lucas, it’s time to check up the stage by stage, so I hope you still remembering those cobbled roads,’’ (Sarcastic tone)
‘’Of course Lance! But if you can refresh my memory I don’t mind, hehe…’’ (Laughs)
With just 4km, TvA starts at Hoogstraten with a short prologue to find the first yellow jersey. A short distance perfect for both top time trialist and prologue specialists and it won’t affect the General Classification but if a favorite has an off day, he or they would begin with a few seconds lost. ‘’What can you add, Lucas?’’
‘’It’s true, Lance. It’s not a demanding stage, but if you crash or your legs are out of power, the next stage will be very, very long. Basically, it’s the thermometer to see if the favorite has the legs, both good and bad legs. Sometimes the captains have good legs here to secure a decent performance, but normally we don’t spend a lot of energy. Speaking about my own performance at this stage, I didn’t have a lot of stress during the stage, I think I can remember one edition where I did finish top 10 so as you said; it’s not crucial for the General Classification men,’’
‘’Right, that inside you provide to our audience is precious so they can learn about this exciting tour. Now it’s time to move on to Stage 2, coming out of Hoogstraten.’’
Stage 2 – Hoogstraten – Arendonk
After the prologue, Stage 2 will come out of Hoogstraten, so the real tour begins. The King’s stage starts at Hoogstraten, heading to the beautiful Belgian countryside, with so many tough and numerous sections of hard pave roads. The route of course demands a lot of technique from the riders and here the support is crucial for each captain. In this stage there are not steep hills to add pressure on the main favorites for the yellow jersey and the previous leader has a real challenge to keep up the pace of the cobble experts, ‘’What memories do you have about Stage 2, Lucas?’’
‘’It’s a beautiful stage, if you have the legs, but it could turn into a real living nightmare if you can’t keep the pace of the peloton. I won it twice, and gained a lot of time to wear the yellow jersey, but it’s extremely hard. Only thing I can’t deny is the nice landscape and thousands of people supporting the effort we made during the whole stage. Having at least one team mate with great power output on the flat roads is a must, otherwise you should follow another team and cross fingers you don’t end exhausted,’’
‘’That’s a good key, Lucas. By the way, your former team mate Fialho has the record with four victories in this stage, tied with Qi Yiqun; any thoughts?’’ (Asking with a complice smile).
Lucas looked at me very serious and then smiles after thinking shortly.
‘’How many TvA Márcio has?’’ (Laughs)
‘’Good point my friend, you got me this time. So the wind and possible rain is a factor to consider. Time to move on to Stage 3,’’
Stage 3 – Arendonk – Geel
After the long and punishing King stage, the peloton will leave Arendonk to head up to Geel. Despite is not the most important stage, the favorites for the GC cannot lose attention to details and must have an eye on the other contenders, and try to find a good opportunity to strike if that chance appears. Most of the take overs in the GC happened in
this stage, so it is really important to be in alert, ‘’Any missing information, Lucas?’’
‘’Yeah, any leader has to be in front to avoid any surprise. I lost a TvA because I was in the back of the peloton, so distraction is not allowed. In the last editions many of the final winners and runners up were clearly defined here, so the importance of this stage has increased,’’
‘’You had a thrilling duel with Fialho and Anastasakis a while ago, how was it?’’
‘’Phew… incredible… despite the insane move of Márcio, the counter attack of Theofanis made me react and the chance to secure my second overall win against Cichocki, who had a bad day, was enough prize,’’
‘’At the end, Márcio won the stage,’’
‘’Yeah, he missed the podium for seconds but the overall win was all what we were looking for,’’ Lucas resumed smiling.
‘’Ok Lucas, now it’s time to analyze Stage 4,’’
‘’Let’s do it!’’
Stage 4 – Geel – Antwerpen
Finally, the last stage of Tweedaagse van Antwerpen. Departing from Geel, the peloton will face a less demanding stage in the cobble stat, but the wind speed variation could mean the possibility for a close runner up to turn the tables before TvA comes to an end at Antwerpen, otherwise it’s hard that any important changes occur in the GC. ‘’What can you tell Lucas, any real possibilities to win a TvA in this stage?’’
‘’Little to none. But that little, about 10%, stills giving hope to try it if you are really close enough, around 10-15 seconds behind the leader; so if the stars align, you could be celebrating at the end. I never struggled here when came as leader so I’m talking for myself, but in the past some riders lost everything here, so after the prologue, there’s no moment to relax, not even in the team bus,’’
‘’You’re right Lucas. A tour is always a very tough and stressful competition, and the smallest detail counts at the end, it’s the difference of a rider celebrating and another falling down and burying his face between hands, that’s a very hard picture and we have seen it lots of times,’’
‘’Very true Lance. One more thing, the current winner is not a pure cobbler, and depends a lot of his sprint support,’’
‘’Yes, Sherard is not the type of pure cobbler, but the great technique he has compensates the lack of incredible skills in the cobbles,’’
‘’I would be very surprised if he manages to win a third victory,’’ Lucas said raising an eyebrow.
‘’Well, I guess we need to wait until Day 13 when Tweedaagse van Antwerpen begins. For now this is all, thank you Lucas for your collaboration and of course, thanks to manager Jempie who gave you a small break from your work as trainer, and I hope I will count with you for the team presentations,’’
‘’Of course, I’ll be here,’’ (smiles and ‘’touching’’ elbows).
So this Preview of Tweedaagse van Antwerpen and the stage by stage is now over. So Lucas and I will be back to all of you after Day 5 so you can enjoy the full line up of the race, a race you will enjoy if you stay tune in on OCM Sports, be safe!