The two-time Belgian Champion goes into the race with the goal of taking a win before returning to Europe.

“I had a good winter preparation, and to come out of it and immediately win was really important for the confidence. I started the AlUla Tour with plenty of motivation, knowing that my level was good, so finishing the week there with a pair of stage victories and the points jersey was really important ahead of the UAE Tour, which will be my first World Tour race of the year.

Since arriving here we’ve been on a recon of some of the loops. We knew most of the course from the past, but it’s always good to spin the legs a bit and get reacquainted with things. The race could be chaotic and very nervous, especially in the first days, as they predict crosswinds, so if we do indeed have echelons, it will only add to the difficulty. On the other hand, I like riding in echelons, also because this makes things harder and the others suffer more than in a normal race, and when they are tired it’s easier to find your position in the sprint.

I have a strong team here, with Bert as my lead-out man, and the goal is to get a victory.

I know it will be difficult to repeat last year’s performance, when I took two stages and the points jersey – especially with the number of very good sprinters in the race – but it would be nice to score a win before returning to Europe.

From there on, my focus will be on some stage races and, of course, on the one-day races. I love the Belgian Classics, so I hope to do Nokere Koerse and Scheldeprijs, and feature in the finale with a chance of victory. A win there would be nice. It remains to be seen if I will also ride Flanders and Roubaix, but if I go there, I am prepared to help the team. After the spring campaign, maybe I will go to a Grand Tour, but we’re still far from that. I like to take it one step at a time and see how things go. I am in the team I’ve always dreamed of riding pro since a young age, I am happy, and I want to make the most out of it.”


Photo credit: ©Alex Broadway / Getty Images

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