Tolhoek tenth in opening stage Ruta del Sol
Antwan Tolhoek has finished tenth in the first stage of the Ruta del Sol. The 15...
After Wout van Aert’s victory in the Amstel Gold Race, the hill classics follow each other in rapid succession. On Wednesday the Flèche Wallonne with a finish on the famous Mur de Huy is on the programme. This race is 192 kilometres long with twelve climbs along the way, including three of the most famous. On Sunday Liège-Bastogne-Liège takes place, a 260 kilometre race with eleven climbs.
Veteran Paul Martens will be at the start of both races for the last time and can be called an expert. “These are two fantastic races. Every winter, I focus on this period of the year. I perform fairly consistently in the Flèche Wallonne. This year we are at the start of both the Flèche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege with Primoz and that gives some extra pressure. We know what Primoz is capable of and he is in good shape. We are in a good flow as a team after the second place in the Brabantse Pijl and the victory in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday. It is up to us to continue like this”, Martens explains.
When the Amstel Gold Race is mentioned again the 37-year-old German is beaming from ear to ear. “That was a great day. I really enjoyed being a cyclist. I saw many familiar faces here and there. It feels like coming home every year. After my breakaway I had some space to enjoy the race. I did realise that it was my last Amstel Gold Race. It did give me a satisfied feeling.”
When asked when Martens himself will get off his bike with a satisfied feeling after the Waalse Pijl and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, he is adamant. “If I can say of myself that I made good decisions and gave it my all, then I am satisfied. The best compliment I can get is when the leader on duty says afterwards that I did a good job.”
"The best compliment I can get is when the leader on duty says afterwards that I did a good job."
The man from Rostock thinks back to last year’s edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège with joy. “The 2020 edition will be remembered for a long time. On that day everything fell into place for us as a team. In terms of results, it could not be better, but this year I would like to have a little more control on the road. Back then Primoz experienced that he does not always have to be the best in the race to win. Last year he was unable to follow the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. I think he learned from that. I expect that this year the key moment will be on that climb again. In the Flèche Wallonne the race will traditionally be decided on the Mur de Huy.”
The realisation that he is in his final months in the pro peloton is not yet there. “After these two classics I will be at the start of the Giro d’Italia. That will be my twelfth grand tour. As for smaller races that are still on the programme, it remains to be seen whether they can take place. I still feel a strong part of the team. I don’t quite realise yet that from 1 July it’s over for me. I think that is also a sign that I can still keep up at this level and I am not yearning for the end. The focus is now on the coming week, with two beautiful races in which we want to reach the highest level.”