Development Hunting a stage win at the Giro d’Italia U23

With Arnaud De Lie, Thibaut Ponsaerts, Luca Van Boven, Aaron Van der Beken and Lennert Van Eetvelt.
Race 27 May 2021

Next week, the Lotto Soudal Development Team will be heading to Italy to participate in the Giro for U23 riders, the so-called Baby Giro, from Thursday 3 June until Saturday 12 June. These are the five Lotto Soudal riders who will be at the start in Cesenatico: Arnaud De Lie (19), Thibaut Ponsaerts (20), Luca Van Boven (21), Aaron Van der Beken (20) and Lennert Van Eetvelt (19).

In yet another atypical season due to the covid restrictions, they have only participated in one or two races so far this year, because our U23 riders were only able to ride the GP Vermarc (15 May) and Ruddervoorde Koerse (19 May) in Belgium.

Kurt Van de Wouwer, sports manager Lotto Soudal Development Team: “Our line-up for the Giro is a logical line-up. For Arnaud De Lie it’s his first season as a U23 rider, so one might think this is too hard for someone his age, but if you saw him racing at GP Vermarc, where he finished third, then you know he’s ready for it. Lennert Van Eetvelt was also very strong at GP Vermarc. He animated the race that day. And he too is ready for the Giro, in his second season as a U23. For Thibaut Ponsaerts, a third-year U23 rider, this Giro selection is a logical step in his development. Aaron Van der Beken and Luca Van Boven, both third-year U23 riders as well, get to ride on a course that suits them really well.”

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“As we were only able to ride GP Vermarc and Ruddervoorde, it’s difficult to get an accurate idea of the expectations we can have. Last year, we started with GC ambitions, that’s not the case for this year’s Giro. We do aim for a stage win though.”

The Giro begins on Thursday in Cesenatico, home of Marco Pantani. After two rather flat stages in the area, the first climb of first category awaits the riders on day three, though there is a flat final on the way to Cesenatico. A day later, the Giro moves away from the Adriatic coast for a flat individual time trial of 25.4 kilometres.

On Monday 7 June, the stage finishes in ski resort Sestola. In the last 25 kilometers of this fifth stage two second category climbs need to be conquered; with the finish two and a half kilometers after the last summit. The next day, the finish line is drawn after a descent of sixteen kilometers. The winner of the seventh stage will be crowned on top of an hors catégorie climb in Lanzada, at 2,020 meters altitude. Stage eight starts with a first category climb from Aprica. Afterwards, it goes mainly downhill that day, with a climb towards Andalo to end the stage. On Friday, another mountain stage is scheduled. With a length of 167.1 kilometers that’s the second longest stage. Only the sixth stage is even ten kilometres longer. The last stage of the Giro is a rather flat stage with finish in Castelfranco Veneto.

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Kurt Van de Wouwer: “The second half of this Giro is the hardest. In the first half, there are opportunities for a type of rider like Arnaud De Lie. Someone who’s good on a challenging course and is fast at the finish. Afterwards, the climbers can take their chance. We have to wait and see how our riders will perform compared to their opponents. In France and Italy for example, the riders could already race during the first months of the season. It’s difficult to predict what our riders can aspire individually.”

“Apart from trying to achieve concrete results, this Giro is also important in other ways for our riders. The level is always high, due to the course and the strong participants. The fact that this race lasts ten days is unique for U23 riders, because other stage races are maximally five or six days long. You become stronger if you ride the Giro, no doubt.”

Line-up : Arnaud De Lie, Thibaut Ponsaerts, Luca Van Boven, Aaron Van der Beken and Lennert Van Eetvelt.

Sports director: Carl Roes.

Images: Facepeeters.