Max Walscheid and former winner Edvald Boasson Hagen will lead the NTT Professional Biking group at Sunday’s Gent Wevelgem, and sports activities director Lars Michaelsen – additionally a former winner – says he hopes that the group’s present underdog standing could depend in its favour.
Boasson Hagen gained the race in 2009, using then for the Colombia-Highroad squad, however has but to take a win in 2020, though he got here shut, taking second place on stage 7 of the Tour de France in Lavaur behind Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert.
Walscheid gained two phases and the factors classification on the Tour de Langkawi in February, and the 27-year-old was additionally a part of this yr’s Tour squad, using the race for the primary time in help of Boasson Hagen and the group’s foremost sprinter, Giacomo Nizzolo.
Nevertheless, the group has struggled for leads to latest seasons, and is now combating to discover a new sponsor after telecommunications firm NTT introduced on the finish of final month that it would not proceed to again the group in 2021.
“I feel I’ve carried some good condition out of the Tour de France, and I am positively motivated for the upcoming Classics,” Walscheid stated in a group press launch on Saturday. “I feel that there could also be some probabilities to go for a outcome for me, and I hope to start out doing that at Gent-Wevelgem.
“I am feeling good, and it was good to do a journey in good climate at present on our last coaching journey forward of the race. We do not count on nice situations, however we acquired used to that final week on the BinckBank Tour, the place situations weren’t nice,” he stated.
“I’ve completed the race as soon as earlier than, and the principle obstacles keep the identical, however in any other case the route has modified a bit bit, so it was good to see it, to get an impression, and get a sense for the race,” the German sprinter stated. “The hilly half will certainly be robust, and maybe we’ve got a small benefit in that it is in our short-term reminiscence, however we hope to be nicely positioned on the essential factors.”
Directeur sportif Michaelsen rode the race 11 instances throughout his profession, successful it in 1995 and ending second – behind Frank Vandenbroucke – in 1998, and so is aware of the race higher than most.
“Clearly, we’ve got a group that will likely be thought of as underdogs, and I feel that is how we should always look to get one of the best out of it,” Michaelsen stated. “We have to deal with the truth that we’re not favourites, and attempt to struggle to shock a number of folks, and I feel that is how we will purpose for a outcome.
“The [climb of the] Kemmelberg has all the time been, and can all the time be, a key second on this race. In Gent-Wevelgem this yr, we move it 3 times: twice from the south and the ultimate time from the north, which is a bit steeper, with cobblestones on each facet.
“It additionally depends upon the climate on the day,” he added. “It is all very open in West Flanders, and so it depends upon the path of the wind. I do not assume that we are going to have any heavy rain.
“Wind is an element, the time of the season is an element,” Michaelsen stated, with the race having been postponed from its common late-March calendar slot, “after which among the riders within the peloton are flying like Wout van Aert [Jumbo-Visma], Mathieu van de Poel [Alpecin-Fenix] and Julian Alaphilippe [Deceuninck-QuickStep], so let’s have a look at the way it goes.”