Fuglsang and Lutsenko to fine-tune Ardennes Classics preparation at Itzulia Basque Country
A change in program will see Jakob Fuglsang and Alexey Lutsenko forgo the Tour of Flanders to fine-tune their preparation for the Ardennes Classics at Itzulia Basque Country.
Whilst Fuglsang was originally scheduled to race the Tour of Flanders and line up at Itzulia Basque Country the following day, the decision has been made to prioritize the Spanish stage race in order to give the Dane the best possible lead up to the Ardennes Classics block of racing. Having recovered from his crash on the final stage of Paris-Nice, Kazakh road race champion Lutsenko will use the five-stage race to get back into the racing rhythm before lining up at Amstel Gold Race.
“We start every season with a plan but as is always the case, we need to make changes to our rider programs on a case by case basis. In collaboration with both riders, Jakob Fuglsang and Alexey Lutsenko, we have agreed that it is in their best interests to forgo the Tour of Flanders this year. With the Ardennes Classics a big goal for both riders, we believe Itzulia Basque Country provides the best preparation. Particularly for Alexey, who has been working hard to recover from his Paris-Nice crash, we don’t want to take the risk of racing on the cobbles and undoing his recovery” said Alexandr Vinokurov, Sports Team Principal.
The logistics of racing the Tour of Flanders and then starting the following day in the Basque Country, as originally planned, is difficult due to the current Covid-19 protocol.
“Logistically, it is very difficult to line up in Belgium and then start in the Basque Country the next day, as many riders have done in the past. The current Covid-19 situation has drastically reduced the travel options, and with the need to maintain team bubbles as much as possible, it was a logical decision. The Tour of Flanders is an important race for every WorldTour team so we look forward to lining up next Sunday with a young and motivated roster,” explained Yana Seel, Managing Director.
Fuglsang is looking to repeat his 2019 Spring when he finished fourth overall at Itzulia Basque Country, went on to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and stood on the podium at all three Ardennes Classics.
“Although I was looking forward to lining up at the Tour of Flanders for the second time in my career, we have decided it would be a little too ambitious to race in Belgium and start at Itzulia Basque Country the next day. At the moment, travel is more difficult and with the team’s current Covid-19 protocol, we didn’t want to take the risk. I will definitely return to the cobbles again in the future when I can focus 100 percent on the race, which is key if you have any ambition at the Tour of Flanders. The Basque race is one of the toughest stage races in the calendar so there is no better way to prepare for my first big goal of the season, the Ardennes Classics. In 2019, it proved to be the perfect race in the lead up to the Belgian racing block and I know I will benefit again from the hard days in the mountains,” said Fuglsang.
With his recovery in mind, Lutsenko will take things day by day as he looks to return to form ahead of the Ardennes.
“I am feeling much better after my crash at Paris-Nice. I am still in recovery mode, but I feel ok and I am happy to race again. I plan to return at GP Miguel Indurain before lining up Itzulia Basque Country. First of all, I want to see how my recovery is going and how I am feeling in racing conditions. It will be an important race for me to prepare for the Ardennes classics, so I am coming to the Basque Country with the goal of building my form. I will keep going day by day and who knows, maybe I will see a chance to fight for a stage win. Of course, I will also look to help my teammates in the fight for the General Classification and I am really motivated to support the team,” added Lutsenko.
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