Next year’s summer Olympic Games are quickly approaching and the selectors for the Belgian national team have to pick their riders. It’s going to be difficult to choose.
So far, the only certain participant is Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Remco Evenepoel.
Belgium is one of only 6 teams to have the maximum 5 places for the elite men’s Olympic road race and 2 for the time trial.
The 2 chosen time triallists also have to be part of the five-man road-race team, so it won’t be as simple as picking the fastest man against the clock for the final TT place.
This week, the national selectors will begin discussions with the potential candidates for the second time-trial place. Victor Campenaerts from Lotto Soudal, Wout van Aert and Laurens De Plus from Jumbo-Visma, and Yves Lampaert from Deceuninck-QuickStep are four of the most likely riders to get the spot.
Belgian Cycling’s technical director Frederik Broché clarified that there won’t be any new qualification criteria. “The selection will be made in May on the basis of value judgment by the national coach.”
“If it turns out that we think we are more likely to win medals in the road race than in the time trial, it’s possible that the importance of the second place for the time trial is subordinated to the importance of the strength of the selection for the road race,” he added.
Tom Van Damme, the head of Belgian Cycling, stated the decision will be made “based on performance, motivation, and enthusiasm. Just because someone wins the Paris-Nice prologue doesn’t mean he is, therefore, the right choice for the time trial in Tokyo.”
Evenepoel’s got for sure the first of the 2 time-trial spots and consequently, a place in the road race, thanks to his victory in the European Championships time trial.
What the Riders Say
Belgian time trial champion Van Aert said last month he’d be willing to work for his teammates in the road race if selected for the other place.
However, he’s still recovering from a thigh injury from Tour de France and stated his rehabilitation is “the most important thing.”
“It’s up to the federation to contact its best time triallists. I’m not going to call them […] and beg for selection,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, current Hour Record holder Campenaerts will go from Lotto Soudal to NTT Pro Cycling for 2020. The visit to Tokyo gave him a good chance to scout out the Olympic time trial course.
“It’s tailor-made for the Belgians. It’s very good for me, Remco Evenepoel, or Wout van Aert,” he said confidently.
It is yet to be decided how the national team will look for the summer Olympic Games, but Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet from CCC Team would certainly be part of it, although the very hilly course is unlikely to give him much chance of defending his title in the face of potential participants like Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, 2019 Tour de France champion Egan Bernal of Colombia, and four-time Tour winner Chris Froome of Great Britain.
Dylan Teuns from Bahrain-Merida could be the most suitable Belgium candidate, with Lotto Soudal’s Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens also likely candidates for road-race places.