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Two teams were rocked by last-minute dropouts on the eve of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with Israel-Premier Tech and Lotto-Soudal both forced to make leadership changes.
Lotto-Soudal was forced to take Tim Wellens off its roster, while Israel-Premier Tech made a similar decision over former winner Sep Vanmarcke. The Belgian came down with a cold according to his team.
“After developing a sore throat overnight and not feeling 100 percent this morning, Sep and the IPT medical team have decided it’s better to focus on recovery to not jeopardize future races,” the team posted on Twitter.
Guillaume Boivin, Tom Van Asbroeck and Simon Clarke are expected to shoulder more of the responsibility.
“I’m confident that we’re bringing a really good team to these races,” sport director Dirk Demol said in reference to both Omloop and Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
“We all know that the level here is super high and it’s going to be hard racing both days. We have a lot of experience in our team and we have multiple riders able to fight for a good result. With the guys we are lining up with this weekend, I expect us to be in the game both Saturday and Sunday. We are really looking forward to these races!”
After developing a sore throat over night and not feeling 100 % this morning, Sep and the IPT medical team have decided it’s better to focus on recovery to not jeopardize future races.
— Israel – Premier Tech / Israel Cycling Academy (@IsraelPremTech) February 26, 2022
For Lotto-Soudal the loss of Wellens is also a blow. The Belgian rider has taken two wins already this season and looked in fine form heading into “opening weekend.”
“Wellens will not start. He got sick the night before the race. Tim Wellens had problems with his stomach. After consultation with the medical staff, the decision was made not to start.” The team wrote on Twitter.
“UCI regulations stipulate that Wellens cannot be replaced.”
Despite the loss of such an important rider the team still has Philippe Gilbert and Victor Campenaerts within its ranks.
“Too bad Tim isn’t here,” Gilbert said. “The tactic is adapted because he was an important card. He was showing great form.”