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Lotto Soudal head to the Tour de France with stage wins on their mind as well as “revenge”, according to general manager John Lelangue, as Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan leads their hopes in July once again.

The Belgian team, resplendent in their fresh new look for the Tour, with teal flourishes on their kit thanks to future lead sponsor Dstny, bring a full lead-out to the Grand Départ for Ewan, who left last year’s race after a crash in the sprint in the stage 3 final.

“If I can summarise our goals for the Tour, it can be done in one word – victories,” Lelangue told the media at Wednesday’s pre-race press conference. “It’s clear that we go to the Tour with a lot of ambition, and with feelings of revenge after last year’s Tour where we lost Caleb after a crash in the first bunch sprint.

“We’re confident that we can succeed with this train in the four or five sprint opportunities that are available. We believe Caleb is the fastest man in the peloton. He’s already proven that.

“This year we bring a very balanced team to the start – for almost every stage. We’re fully focussed on stage wins, not the general classification.”

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Ewan went into last year’s race expecting it to be part two of a quest to win a stage at each Grand Tour, though the broken collarbone sustained in Pontivy put paid to that.

This time around, he heads to Copenhagen having enjoyed a strong spring with five wins – including a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico – but also a “Giro from hell” where he fell victim to crashes and bad luck on several occasions.

At the Giro d’Italia he worked with his regular lead-out men Roger Kluge and Rüdiger Selig, but the team takes on a slightly different look for the Tour, with new signing Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg stepping in as well as Frederik Frison, Brent Van Moer, and Florian Vermeersch.

Ewan said, however, that he won’t need his teammates to quickly form a QuickStep-esque lead-out to take him right up to the final sprints. He’s happy instead to be dropped at a kilometre to go where he can freelance on the wheels of others.

“They are very strong,” he said of his team. “It’s the best team that we can bring, but we have to change our tactics a little bit. The most important thing my teammates have to do is to put me in a good position at one [kilometre] from the finish, and I can handle it from there.

“So, they don’t necessarily have to drop me at 200 metres to go. If they can keep me out of the wind in the last 10km and get me in good position under the flamme rouge, I can finish it myself.”

Ewan hasn’t finished any of the last three Grand Tours he has started, making the rescheduled Tour in 2020 – where he won two stages – the last one he completed. He said that he’s hoping to do the same this July and compete for victory on the Champs-Elysées, of course.

“I haven’t completed a Grand Tour since 2020, so just for my legs it would be good to finish,” he said. “I’ve been focusing a lot on the climbing to really get through it. If I stay healthy, I want to make it to Paris for sure. And to win the sprint there – every sprinter wants to be first.”

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: Daniel Ostanek
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