With the WorldTour season now four weeks away, Belgium’s top teams are looking to get the race wheels rolling early.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Lotto-Soudal are both sending strong lineups to the GP Vermarc Sport Kermesse Sunday. Fabio Jakobsen, John Degenkolb, Dries Devenyns and Florian Senechal are all slated to take the start line in Flemish town Rotselaar for the 164-kilometer circuit race.
Mathieu van der Poel’s Alpecin-Fenix team will also be racing, though the Dutch star has not been named on the ProTeam’s squad.
Though the event will see a mixture of pro and amateur teams racing and should pose little competitive challenge for the likes of monument winner Degenkolb or Vuelta a España stage-winner Jakobsen, it will mark an important first step for the WorldTour squads. Having not raced as a unit since the season shut down in March, the criterium will allow riders to reacclimatize to the elbows and accelerations of competitive racing before the season starts again at the end of the month.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step riders will travel to the team’s two-week altitude camp in the Dolomites the day after the race.
“It’s our first race after the lockdown. Our guys have been looking forward to racing again and it will be nice to do so in the back garden of our sponsor Vermarc,” said Deceuninck-Quick-Step sport director Wilfried Peeters. “It’s a good occasion for them to get the race rhythm and then travel to Val di Fassa with a good feeling. For us, it will be important to get everyone safe and sound to the finish line. There are a lot of amateur teams on the start list and this will surely affect the race. Belgian riders are well prepared, both the pros and the amateurs, but it’s hard to tell for anyone now how good they are compared to each other.”