No less than 22 of the 37 AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step riders across the three teams will be in action this weekend, with their ages ranging from 16 to 37. From Friday, the U19 team will ride the UCI Nations Cup in Borsele, a three-day stage race with the best junior riders in the world. On the same day, the U23 team plus Britt Knaven and Ilse Pluimers take part in the time trial. On Saturday, the U23 riders race the UCI-race Omloop van Borsele. Sunday is the Classics climax of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“Yes, it’s a busy weekend with both the U23 and U19 racing here, but the races in Borsele are always great,” said sports director Christian Kos. “We have our juniors Lore De Schepper, Margot Marasco, Fee Knaven, Luca Vierstraete and Nanoi van Wettere in the team’s colours, plus Laia Bosch and Ella Heremans for their national teams. This is a three-day stage race that everyone looks forward to because it has everything: a time trial and two days of full-on racing with echelons. The time trial on day one will be important and give us an idea of the general classification. Most of our riders have a good time trial.”
Next to the time trial for the juniors on Friday, a selection of the U23 team will also line up for a race against the clock with Maureen Arens, Yuli van der Molen, Mirre Knaven and Febe Jooris. Britt Knaven and Ilse Pluimers join from the AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step elite team. This will be the first race back for Ilse after breaking her hand in the Ronde van Drenthe on 12th March.
“My recovery went well,” says Ilse. “Normally you would need eight weeks for a fracture like this one, but it’s only been five weeks since the crash. I can use my hand again. The pain is not so bad and I can train well now. For Friday, I don’t really know what to expect. It will be the first time in a while that I will do a serious effort. But expectations aside, I just can’t wait to get back at it again.”
For the junior squads, there are two road stages on Saturday and Sunday in Borsele. The U23 team joins for a usually quite windy EPZ Omloop van Borsele in the province of Zeeland. Maureen, Yuli and Febe will be joined by Jade Linthoudt, Eline van Rooijen and Julia Kopecky.
“We have a strong team for the race on Saturday,” said Christian. “Racing in Zeeland is always tricky with lots of turns, wind and narrow road. I do expect our AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step U23 team to do well here in this field with predominantly Dutch and Belgian riders.”