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“I never thought I could win a Classic before last year. Now, though, in Flanders I might not have been good enough to win but I was there in the final - it’s only one step more to play for the victory,” Benoot said.

Photo: Lotto Soudal




27.02.2016 @ 10:30 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

With Tom Boonen reaching the twilight of his brilliant career, there is no wonder that Belgians are eagerly looking for someone to take over the reins and become a new king of the classics. His natural successor might be already there and ready to pounce, but despite having an impressive first season as a neo-pro, Tiesj Benoot asks us to wait a little longer before calling him the next big thing.


Being Belgian or not, it seemed impossible not to get excited by results obtained by Benoot last year. The 21-year old Lotto Soudal rider refused to seat tight and quietly gain experience by observing more experienced team leaders. Instead, he has animated finales in the majority od last year's cobbled classics, making top 10 of such events as Le Samyn (4th), Handzame Classic (3rd), Dwars door Vlaanderen (6th) and above everything else Ronde van Vlaanderen (5th).


A showcase of his limitless potential hasn't ceased with the end of the spring classics season, though, as he finished 8th in the Eneco Tour General Classification in August and clocked another two top 10 finishes in Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal and Paris – Tours.


Results obtained by Benoot only in his first year as a professional cyclist easily could make many riders' career, but the young Belgian refuses to get carried away and being compared to biggest classics stars rather displeases him.


“They immediately got really excited,” says Tiesj Benoot, according to Cyclingnews, “but maybe too excited, I think.”


“It’s not so healthy,” he explains. “The press like to make comparisons, and they say a lot, ‘you are the guy to follow Tom Boonen, you have to follow him up, if you don’t do it there’s nobody else in Belgium.’”


At the same time the Lotto Soudal rider admits that his amazing progress has surpassed everyone's expectations, including his own.


“It was above all my expectations, and the expectations of everyone around me I think,” he replies. “The results I did in the WorldTour, I wanted to do them in the lower classes, the 1.1 races, the smaller races in Belgium. But actually immediately I could play a role in the final in WorldTour races, so it was really a big surprise for me.


“I never thought I could win a Classic before last year. Now, though, in Flanders I might not have been good enough to win but I was there in the final – it’s only one step more to play for the victory.”


“Let’s say, the dream became a goal.”


Turning himself into a winner – a step which many highly promising one-day racers have never been able to take, it Benoot's next objective. He shows an impressive maturity in handling all the pressure and wisely gauging his efforts, aware that at the age of 21 he's not yet ready to throw everything into a battle with stronger and more experienced riders.


“I need a few more years [to figure out what kind of rider I am],” he adds. “As a young cyclist I have to watch out, and not ask too much of my body.”


The 21-year old Belgian will focus on Flemmish classics this season, but thinking about the future he might turn his attention to the Ardennes..


“There is a difference between fifth and first in these races, but I’m only 21,” he says, “so I think can make another step forward... Maybe not this year, maybe in two years, three years, five years maybe. If you watch Van Avermaet he’s already trying to win a Classic for six, seven years. You need a bit of luck in these races.”


Benoot will kick off his classics campain as a Lotto Soudal co-captain in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.



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