He started cycling as a 15-year-old, in Flanders, but soon he discovered the Ardennes and decided to focus on the climbs, as he realized that his future lies in the hilly Classics, as well as in the stage races with arduous climbs. In 2013, he caught everyone’s attention with top 10 placings in the Tour du Valromey and Giro della Lunigiana, and eventually signed a contract with the U23 Lotto-Belisol team, where he showed glimpses of his potential, inspite of the fact he had to work for the likes of Tiejs Benoot and Louis Vervaeke.
Starting this season as one of the team’s leaders, the 19-year-old Belgian confirmed his huge talent, first in Flèche Ardennaise, where he came 5th, and then, more important, in the prestigious Ronde de l’Isard. In the four-day French race, Laurens De Plus put on a great ride, coming twice on the podium, before finishing second in the GC and first in both the points and young classification. Soon afterwards, he racked up other strong results, this time in the Course de la Paix, just 12 seconds behind the winner.
This impressive series proved once again that Laurens De Plus is absolutely flying in 2015 and that the best things could be yet to come, as the next months will bring some important races in his calendar. But before tackling his future goals, the young Belgian rider – who dreams of winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège as a pro – made some time to talk for the following interview with Cafe Roubaix.
– Laurens, what were your goals at the start of Ronde de l’Isard?
I wanted to do a good GC, because last year our team won the race with Louis Vervaeke so we had a good reputation in this event. Another reason was because I like this race and it really suits me.
– How was the race?
Good. The first day I ended up second on Goulier Neige. The second day I felt great before Plateau De Beille, so I put my teammates in front to go for the victory and the yellow jersey. But unluckily I had a puncture just before the climb and lost a minute. I got a wheel from my teammate Dries Van Gestel and did the climb of my life. I still ended up second. I felt great that day, so I was really disappointed. The last stage I expected a big war between me and Simone Petilli, but the wind was not my friend that day. The whole stage we had the wind in front. I ended Isard with just 10 seconds off the victory, so that was unfortunate.
– What feelings did you have at the end of it?
I was not happy with my second place, I think the victory was possible. But that is cycling, and Petilli was also very, very strong. It is a cliché, but without a good team you can’t do anything. I really have to thank my teammates/friends. I also learned that having bad luck is part of cycling. Wearing the real leadership of the team was also a bit new for me.
– Do you think that a major step in your development was the fact that you have now become the leader of the team?
Yeah, true. Last year Louis Vervaeke and Tiesj Benoot were the leaders of the team and they felt the pressure. It was fun to work for the guys, but now I’m one year older and stronger, so it is the moment to do good results, and to take the leadership. That is indeed a step you need to take in your development of U23.
– After finishing four times on the podium in the Ronde de l’Isard and the Course de la Paix, do you feel that a win is much closer?
Yeah, after my second place in Course de la Paix I was like: “not again”. I really wanted to win that stage, so I was too enthusiastic, and didn’t have the punch for the sprint. But to win you also need some luck and I hope I will have some in the next upcoming races.
– In what other races will you go in the following weeks?
In the second part of the season I want to focus on the Tour de l’Avenir, of course, but I also want to be good in Giro della Valle d’Aosta and Tour Alsace. With pain in my heart I can’t ride Tour des Pays de Savoie, but I have to skip it because otherwise I’d be racing too much.
– And what goals do you have?
I want to continue what I did the last months. Have good results and a lot of fun with my teammates in the nice races like Aosta, Alsace and Avenir. But Avenir will be my big goal, because it is a really huge challenge for me to do a good result in this race. I think it’s the highest level you can have in the U23 category. I saw the stages and they look very nice.
– In September you’ll turn 20. Did you give a thought about what would you like to do next season?
I want to continue what I’m doing this year and learn even more of course. I’m still studying (ed. – Accountancy at the Ghent University) and for me that is also important to get a diploma.