Louis Verhelst, a Belgian who dreams of winning Paris-Roubaix
Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke, and Gent-Wevelgem were a preview to the cobbled Monuments and one of the riders who competed in the Belgian races was Louis Verhelst, the young cyclist of Cofidis. After a spell with Etixx-Ihned, the feeder team of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Verhelst choose to start his professional career in France, and even if the beginning was not very good, due to an injury, the future promises to be very nice, because the 23-year old Belgian is built for the cobbles and can be a contender for Paris-Roubaix in a couple of seasons.
With less than two weeks before his first start in the “Hell of the North”, I talked to Louis Verhelst, to find out what he thinks of his start to the season, what is his goal for Paris-Roubaix and what other races will he do this year.
– Louis, last year you were the rider of Etixx-Ihned, but didn’t sign with Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Why was that?
During the first part of the season it looked like I was going to Omega Pharma-Quick Step, but they didn’t really need a rider with my qualities, because they already have about 15 riders for the Classics. In the end, they signed Julian Alaphilippe and Petr Vakoč who were stronger than me on the hills and also had better results later in the season.
– So you ended up with Cofidis. What made you go there?
It’s a good team for any young rider. I can ride the Classics and I will have a free role in several races.
– How were the first months as a pro?
Unfortunately, I had a bad knee injury which held me off the bike for five weeks. So the only race I did was the Tour of Gabon and I really liked it, I had the feeling it was the perfect preparation for the first races in Europe.
– You also got to taste the cobbled classics.
I love these races, and doing them has only increased this feeling. It’s amazing to see so many people at the start and on the side of the road during the races! Unfortunately, like I said, I had a knee injury so I started these races with only two weeks of training in the legs. Every time after 130-140 kilometres, when the speed started going up, I just couldn’t keep up with the guys. After all, following the circumstances, I got as far as I could have in each race.
– I know that you’re going to take a break now and prepare for Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix. Did you study the route of Roubaix?
I’m not really taking a break, I’m just doing some endurance and power training to get back in shape. I didn’t study the route of Roubaix. We are doing the route with the team and also I already did this race five times in the Junior and U23 ranks, so I already know the final of this race really well.
– With what thoughts will you ride Paris-Roubaix?
I don’t know. It’s not fun to do a really big and important race without condition or ambition. I’ll see what happens and try to help the team and gain some experience for the next years.
– Long-term, which race do you dream of winning: Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix?
Paris-Roubaix, because it’s a unique race compared to Flanders, where there are several similar races.
– What is your calendar for the rest of the season?
After Paris-Roubaix I will do Grand Prix de Denain and Tro Bro Léon. After that I’ll race the Tour of Turkey. I would like to be in top shape for the Tour of Belgium and the National Championship. In the end, I hope to finish the season with at least one victory.