Tiesj Benoot: 'I wouldn't give myself an extra star if Wout van Aert doesn't race Tour of Flanders'

Benoot finished second at Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen.

Tiesj Benoot
(Image credit: Getty)

Tiesj Benoot has attempted to quieten talk of him winning Sunday's Tour of Flanders, even if he will be Belgium's big hope in the expected absence of Wout van Aert.

Jumbo-Visma are likely to head into the second Monument of the year with Benoot and Christophe Laporte as their leaders, with Van Aert likely to be sidelined due to an illness.

Even if the Belgian champion, who this spring has already won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Saxo Bank Classic, does take to the start, Benoot has cast scepticism on the 27-year-old being able to challenge for top honours. 

"If he starts, there are some doubts," Benoot, who finished second at Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen, said. "If you're not feeling well three days before, it speaks for itself."

That therefore promotes Benoot as the de-facto leader of the team alongside Laporte, although 28-year-old Benoot prefers not to think too deeply about his elevation.

"I wouldn't give myself another star if Wout is not there," he said. "There will therefore be no extra pressure.

"But we have to make a shift in how we race, how we approach the race tactically.

"But this will be fine because we did it on Wednesday [when Van Aert was rested]. You don't want to lose important riders in your team before a race, and let's hope he can still compete.

"In the Classics, the more guys you have in the final, the better. For sure with Christophe having a really good sprint, I think we are pretty complimentary to each other."

Mathieu van der Poel will be the rider to watch at Flanders, and Benoot revealed that he thought he had sighted a change in the Dutchman's approach to racing on Wednesday, before the Alpecin-Fenix rider eventually beat Benoot in a sprint.

He added: "I sometimes had the feeling in the race that he was a bit more conservative than he used to be, and after what he went through it wouldn't be so stupid actually if he would be like this because now people are thinking he could be less strong.

"But I expected him to be on his top level on Sunday and for me he was already really strong on Wednesday."

Asked how he would try and get the better of Van der Poel in a sprint finish should it come to that again, Benoot quipped: "How would you do it?

"It's a difficult issue to resolve. That's why it's also good for me to have other riders with me in the final. I think like on Wednesday, I just had a small moment of hesitation. 

"But also it's always hard to win a race like this without being the fast guy in the leading group, but still I think Sunday is even more in the legs than it was two days ago."

Last year's winner Kasper Asgreen is still waiting for his first win of the current season, but Benoot expects the Dane to put up a strong defence of his title, while also backing Ineos Grenadiers' leader Tom Pidcock.

"Asgreen has showed he is on a high level," Benoot observed. "And also Pidcock was the biggest surprise on Wednesday, to see him improve that much in three days, and he has four days until Sunday. If his condition follows that steep curve, then for sure he will be in the final."

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