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"That is the most beautiful race of the year. My goal is also the Tour Belgium which is very important for the sponsor. I hope that my condition is still good for that race but it will be difficult if I do all the classics," Leuke...

Photo: Vacansoleil-DCM

BJÖRN LEUKEMANS

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PARIS - ROUBAIX

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31.01.2014 @ 16:17 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After 5 years with Vacansoleil, it is time for a change for Bjorn Leukemans who will be one of the two leaders of the new Wanty team. As a perennial classics contender, the 36-year-old Belgian has set his sights on the Paris-Roubaix and also targets the Tour of Belgium and the individual Europe Tour ranking.

 

Bjorn Leukemans is yet to win a major classic but no one can deny that the Belgian is one of the most consistent performers in the hardest one-day races. In 5 years with Vacansoleil, he was consistently near the top in most of the major races from the E3 Harelbeke in late March to Liege-Bastogne-Liege in late April.

 

His best results are his 4th places in the 2010 Tour of Flanders and the 2007 Paris-Roubaix - achieved when he was still a Predictor-Lotto rider - but Leukemans has still not given up hope that he will one day take that major win. He may have turned 36 years of age but as he prepares himself for his first year with the Wanty team, he is just as ambitious as he has always been.

 

When he set up the Wanty team as a new incarnation of the Accent Jobs-Wanty team, former Vacansoleil sports director Hilaire van der Schueren was quick to secure the services of Leukemans who is set to be one of two leaders of the team. The other is Kevin Seeldraeyers who is set to be in charge of the team's assaults on the stage races.

 

Leukemans is one of those very few riders that can both excel in the cobbled and Ardennes classics and this makes it difficult for him to keep up his condition during the entire classics period. Forced to make a choice of preference, the Belgian has decided to focus his attention on pavés, with the Hell of the North being his major target.

 

 "My priority this year will be the Flemish classics," he said at the team presentation according to Spaziociclismo. "I will certainly not do the Fleche Wallone and I will even miss the Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race. Ideally I will do Liege-Bastogne-Liege but we need to see how my condition is.

 

"It [Paris-Roubaix] is the most beautiful race of the year," he added when asked about his major goal.

 

During his time with Vacansoleil, Leukemans could mainly focus on the one-day races. Being one of the leaders of Wanty, however, he has to broaden his perspectives to satisfy the team's wishes and goals.

 

"My goal is also the Tour Belgium which is very important for the sponsor," he said. I hope that my condition is still good for that race but it will be difficult if I do all the classics. I also hope to do well in the individual Europe Tour rankings. This year we must take maximum points."

 

With the signing of Seeldraeyers, the team is also hopeful that they will get the chance to do a grand tour. They have missed out on selection for the Giro and the Tour, leaving just the Vuelta as an option.

 

However, Leukemans has never been a fan of three-week races and said after the 2011 Tour de France that he would never do a three-week race again. That feeling is reflected in his assessment of the situation.

 

"Doing a grand tour? That will not be a priority for the team as we first need to grow and score many UCI points," he said according to Het Nieuwsblad.

 

The team got their season off to a stellar start when Jerome Baugnies, Roy Jans and Frederique Robert (twice) won stages of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo. The points earned were welcome as the team have their sights firmly focused on the UCI standings.

 

"Our goal for 2013 is to finish as one of the 8 best ProContinental teams, after the WorldTour teams," manager Jean-Francois Bourlart said. "We want to take every possible opportunity to try to score points for the UCI rankings."

 

Wanty will make their European debut on Sunday in the GP La Marsellaise where Leukemans will make his season debut alongside Laurens De Vreese, Jempy Drucker, Michel and Wesley Kreder, Jan Ghyselinck, Frederik Veuchelen and Baugnies. He will next do the Etoile de Besseges and the Volta ao Algarve.

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