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"In the youth ranks I have won everything that counts in the Ardennes. I would love to continue it among the pros. Of course I know that the opposition is much stronger. But still: it is the kind of races and climbs that suit me best,&...

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JAN BAKELANTS

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28.11.2013 @ 17:46 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

In 2013, Jan Bakelants finally got his big breakthrough when he won a stage and wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. Having seen that he is able to challenge the best in the biggest races, he now takes aim at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and another stage win in the Tour de France.

 

As a former Tour de l'Avenir winner, Jan Bakelants had been marked out as a very talented rider for a long time but it took some time for the Belgian to show his potential in the pro ranks. Despite several strong and aggressive showings in the Giro and the Vuelta, he failed to win a single race in his first five years as a professional.

 

He finally got the monkey off the back in July of 2013 and when he was allowed to raise his arms in celebration, it happened on the biggest scene of them all. With a bold move in the finale, he narrowly held off the peloton to win the second stage of the Tour de France and took the yellow jersey in the process.

 

He went on to deliver several strong showings in the second half of the season and crowned it with a win in the GP de Wallonie where he beat Thomas Voeckler in a two-rider sprint. With a 4th and 7th place in the Eneco Tour and the Tour of Beijing respectively, he proved his potential in the WorldTour races as well.

 

In 2014, Bakelants will ride in Omega Pharma-Quick Step colours and the talented Belgian knows that it will be a year of confirmation. Nonetheless, he remains ambitious and sets his sights on some of the biggest one-day races in the world, the Ardennes classics.

 

"In the youth ranks I have won everything that counts in the Ardennes," he told Sporza. "I would love to continue it among the pros. Of course I know that the opposition is much stronger. But still: it is the kind of races and climbs that suit me best."

 

In 2010 and 2011, Bakelants was part of the Omega Pharma-Lotto team of Philippe Gilbert and this put his personal ambitions on hold.

 

"Actually, it's strange - but also not strange - that I have not really had a real success there yet. Of course, I have been riding on the same team as Philippe Gilbert for two years. Then it is obvious who you are going to ride for."

 

Bakelants got his season off to a bad start and this prevented him from riding his preferred races in the Ardennes in 2013. In other years, his participation in the Giro ruled out a top performance

 

"No, I have not," he said when asked whether he has ever been at 100% in the Ardennes. "This year I could not ride due to knee problems. In previous years, I was scheduled for the Giro and then Liege-Bastogne-Liege doesn't fit into the programme.

 

"In 2013, I am not expected to do the Giro so I think it looks good," he said. "In 2013, I've done well in the races that I have ridden in the Ardennes: I was third in the Belgian championships and won the GP de Wallonie. They are races at a different level but with Chavanel, Gilbert and Van Avermaet, there were still strong riders."

 

The Omega Pharma-Quick Step team for the Tour de France is expected to be built around Mark Cavendish but Bakelants still hopes to earn a spot on the roster. He has already singled out a few stages that suit him well.

 

"The competition for a spot is obviously great but basically it was also fierce last season [on Radioshack]," he said. "I would like to be there and I fits well into the team. In the stage I won this year, I have shown that I can ride two kilometres very fast which is always useful in the sprint train. In the first place, we go to the race to support Mark Cavendish.

 

"The stages in the Vosges are also 100% my thing," he added. "It would a pity not to be there. I have often been on vacation in the area with my parents and know basically every metre.

 

"Certainly, I do not underestimate it. There is a stage to La Planche des Belles Filles where you arrive after a very tough day. If the pace is fast from the beginning, the race can explode, maybe even more than on an Alpine stage with a finish on Alpe d'Huez."

 

Bakelants will start his season in the Tour Down Under and has already started training. He will stay away from competition in February and plans to return in early March.

 

This weekend he will ride the Boonen and Friends charity cyclo-cross race.

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