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Photo: Sirotti




23.12.2013 @ 11:42 Posted by Patrick Lorien

A new Belgian hope?


Jens Keukeleire had a successful 2013, and his victories also provided him with another two years at Orica-GreenEdge. The Belgian rider has been with the Australian team since 2012, and he has had a consistent development during the last couple of seasons.


“Jens has certainly developed in the last two years,” Sport Director Matt White told Cyclingnews. “He’s only four years in as a professional, and he can already handle a very big workload as we saw with racing the Classics and then going straight to the Giro.”


“We see a future for Jens as he grows into a leader for the one day races, especially those in Belgium,” added White. “He has a big potential for this style of racing.”


2013 has been a good season for Keukeleire. Just 25-years-old he finished seventh in the Dwars door Vlaanderen, proved an invaluable teammate in Paris-Nice and in Giro d’Italia, and won two stages in the Vuelta a Burgos in impressive fashion. In an interview with CyclingMole Keukeleire shared his thoughts on his season.


“It had it’s ups and downs. I was pretty happy with the 1st half of the season, as I had made a progression from previous years. Then came the Giro and I felt that I had taken a big step forward. The 2nd part of the season was going really good, with 2 stage wins in Burgos. I was actually working towards the Canadian races and other 1-day races at the end of the season, but my crash at the end of August meant I had to stop.”


As a Belgian it is natural that Keukeleire feels an affinity to the hard classics, and his result during the Dwars door Vlaanderen revealed that he just might become another classics specialist of the cycling mad country. Despite bad weather and riding the Milan-Sanremo Keukeleire still feels he did well.


“The race was very difficult, due to the weather. In fact it made all the classics really hard this year. I had been at Milan-SanRemo, so only had 2 days to recover and this meant that I wasn’t in the best of condition. I felt good and made the final selection but the last 15km was really hard and I think that 7th was the best result possible for me, on that day,” he told CyclingMole.


“I’m not slow in a normal sprint but I do prefer an uphill finish. The way I like to sprint means that it looks like I’m pedalling a gear too big, but it is the best for me. At present, climbs like the Mur de Huy are too steep for me but as I progress as a rider, you just never know…”


Somewhat surprising from a Belgian rider Keukeleire reveals that his favorite classic does not hail from his homecountry.


“Surprisingly it is Paris-Roubaix, even though it’s not Flemish! When I raced it for the first time, as an under 23, I was very excited and couldn’t wait for the race. When I raced in Flanders and the other classics, I was happy but not as much. So Paris-Roubaix is my favourite.”


Keukeleire also feels that he is ready to take on more responsibility, and feels that his accomplishments in 2013 might lead to more support from his team. He trains hard, and considers the smaller stage-races and the semi-classics to be within his grasp. Conversely he does not feel ready for individual success during the monuments and Grand Tours.


“Every Winter, when I begin to train for the next year, I notice an improvement in my capabilities. I have noticed it again this year! I don’t know why, but after riding a grand tour your body feels like it can do more. I felt this after my first Giro and again this year. My training has been going really good and I feel that I can make a move next year. I think I can challenge for some of the semi-classics but think that the biggest races might still be a touch too far. If I keep progressing, I hope to challenge for them in the future.”


Nonetheless he would like to ride a Grand Tour next season, both to develop, but also in support of his teammates.


“It would have been too hard to do the Giro this year (due to his race program), so we are looking at riding the Vuelta for the 1st time.”


Finally Keukeleire reveals that World Championship participation is on his Christmas wishlist, and reveals that that it would mean a lot to him if he could ride in his national colours.


“The Worlds has always been a big target of mine and I would like to race it sooner than later. It would mean a massive amount for me to ride for my country and it would signal that I have made massive progress in my career. If I ride like I can, I will have a chance of selection.”


It will be interesting to follow Keukeleire’s progress next season, and 2013 could be considered a breakthrough season. Still, he has to show that he can repeat his success, and he has yet to display the skills that will enable victories in the most important races.



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