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Lotto-Soudal take cautious approach to team training camps

Belgian team hopes to keep riders separate as long as possible, rule out possibility of scooping Greg Van Avermaet

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As the coronavirus crisis lockdown eases over Europe, several teams are already in the midst of training camps or preparing camps prior to the re-start of the 2020 season.

But the Lotto-Soudal is in no rush to ride together. “Altitude camps? That’s not really for us,” team manager John Lelangue told HLN Monday.

Lelangue says that the team is divided into small groups of riders that are all training independently and such a policy would continue well into July. The approach contrasts other teams such as Belgian rivals Deceuninck-Quick-Step, who is sending 50 riders and staffers en masse to the Italian Dolomites next month.

“Out of precaution, we will stick to what we decided in March, right after the lockdown,” Lelangue said. “We have created small groups of riders, caregivers, technical staff, and a bus driver. We will also keep those bubbles separate in the coming weeks.

“Everyone follows their own training program. Philippe Gilbert, Caleb Ewan, Jonathan Dibben and Tim Wellens now train in Monaco. Gilbert, Ewan, Wellens and also John Degenkolb are the core riders for the Tour.”

Lelangue said that their Tour de France unit will move to France for a first camp in mid-July. Like team Jumbo-Visma, they are opting for the local option to avoid travel complications.  “We want to avoid flying,” Lelangue said. “We are looking for a place where not many tourists come, where we can have our own accommodation and have our own dining room. You will not find us on the Côte d´Azur or near Biarritz. We are heading for the mountains in central France.”

Lelangue insists that a high altitude camp is not the priority for the Belgian team. After all, they have no GC contenders but rather sprinters and stage-hunters. “We have not done any altitude training in the past and we are not going to do that now. And in terms of team building, we did that in December in Mallorca. We have done our homework.”

In addition, Lelangue told Belgian daily La Dernière Heure that he has no plans for a mid-season signing of Greg Van Avermaet. The two worked together on the BMC team and Van Avermaet has acknowledged that, in light of the financial troubles on his current CCC team, he would be open to a mid-season move. But Lelangue says it will not be to his team.

“In my view, it would be disrespectful to the Olympic champion and our current leaders,” Lelangue said. “Greg is a super rider and someone I love, but it wouldn’t make sense to get a specialist for the Flemish classics when we already have a core group that already consists of Gilbert, Degenkolb, and Wellens.”