cycling news / Leopard ready for Tour de Luxembourg after good Flèche du Sud
It’s the most important week of the season for Leopard Pro Cycling. Last week the team rode a very solid Flèche du Sud where the team was close to two stage wins. Now, all eyes are on the Škoda Tour de Luxembourg, the biggest race on the team’s race calendar. This is the time to shine for the youngsters of the Luxembourgish outfit, as the race takes place on Leopard’s home soil.
Roster: Jan Brockhoff, Carmelo Foti, Alexander Krieger, John Mandrysch, Aksel Nõmmela, Gaëtan Pons, Szymon Rekita & Tom Wirtgen, DS: Markus Zingen & Gregor Willwohl
At the Škoda Tour, the Leopard Pro Cycling team needs to show itself to the crowd in one of the five tough days. In the past, the team already showed it’s capabilities on a higher level of racing. In recent years Alex Kirsch, Joël Zangerlé, Kristian Haugaard and Alexander Krieger all proved that they have a lot to offer to the biggest teams in cycling with top results in this race. Everyone involved will hope that the Luxembourgish team can rise above themselves again, altough the the competition will be tough, with amongst others Olympic Champion Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing Team at the start line.
The Škoda Tour de Luxembourg starts of with the traditional prologue in the center of Luxembourg-City. In this 2,1 kilometer opener, the riders will find a tough and steep climb of 480 meters at an average gradient of 10%. Last year, Alexander Krieger finished as seventh amongst the worlds best riders. Then, stage one takes the race from Luxembourg-City to Bascharange, where there will be a local lap with a difficult climb that offers chances for potential attacks.
At Friday, stage two has some serious altimeters in it. From Steinfort to Walferdange, there will be no less that six GPM’s, not counting all other uphill sections that need to be covered. The peloton heads into the weekend for the longest stage of this years race. Here, the men will seperate themselves from the boys with a difficult uphill finish at the Herrenberg in Diekirch. Three times 2,6 kilometers long with an average gradient of 6,5%. It will most definitely be a decisive day. If one is still within a respectable margin in the general classification, the closing stage will offer plenty of opportunities to make some moves. With a difficult final around the Papeierbierg (800 meters at 9%), there is still a very tough obstacle to overcome.
Markus Zingen, DS: “At Flèche du Sud, we were one of the teams that were being watched by the other formations. This will be different at the Škoda Tour de Luxembourg. Here we are the young guns amongst the bigger UCI Pro Continental and UCI World Tour Teams. Of course we want to present ourselves to the home crowd by being active in the breakaways. Nonetheless, we will take the race day by day, but it’s no secret that we want to perform well with guys like Szymon Rekita, Aksel Nõmmela and Alexander Krieger. Everyone in the team is really looking forward to the five upcoming days.”
Flèche du Sud
One week prior to the start of the Škoda Tour de Luxembourg, the Leopard Pro Cycling team was active at another highlight of their season. At the Luxembourgish race Flèche du Sud, the team had a very good start. After Italian Carmelo Foti was in the breakaway of the first evening stage, Aksel Nõmmela sprinted to a fourth positon after this break was reeled back in. To top off a great start, 20-year-old Pit Leyder took the leaders jersey of the Best Luxembourgish Rider.
Unfortunately, the following two stages did not go to plan for the team. In the second stage, one could notice an off-day of the entire team and altough they were willing to strike back on day three, they suffered quite a bit of bad luck. The team had Szymon Rekita and Aksel Nõmmela in the first part of the race, but a flat tire and no neutral service around set Szymon back to the third group in the race with a disadvantage of 1’10 to the front of the race. After a strong pursuit, the youngster from Poland reeled a good amount of competitors in, but he never made it back to the front.
On day four, the stage win suddenly became very close. Aksel Nõmmela battled with Russian Mamyr Stash for a sprint victory, but the Estonian was cut off into the barriers. The jury decided to give the win to Leopard’s Estonian, but they later pulled this decision back, meaning that Aksel and the team had to be satisfied with second place. After this penultimate stage, the good feeling prevailed, also because Szymon Rekita was in the attack all day and only pulled back in the final 4000 meters. At Sunday, the team decided to give it one last push in the closing stage in and around Esch. Everything went according to plan and Nõmmela was in a perfect position for the final sprint. Unfortunately, he crashed in the final turn at 250 meters to go. Belgian Jens Reynders and German Jan Brockhoff immediately took over and finished the stage in a respectable fifth and sixth position, leaving Leopard Pro Cycling with good self-confidence for the Škoda Tour.
Aksel Nõmmela: “I am super disappointed with the fact that I was not able to take the stage win on the fourth day. I was second in the sprint, although the declared winner Stash closed me into the barriers in the final 100 meters. However, I am proud of the team as they did a perfect job. In this particular stage, we had Szymon in the breakaway and Carmelo, Pit, Jens and Jan helped me to reach the finish line in the best possible way. In the final four kilometers, Jan guided me through the bunch and delivered me in a perfect position under the flamme rouge. I really want to thank the guys for their terrific work!”
Markus Zingen, DS: “All in all you can say that we did a good Flèche du Sud. Altough we had a good start at the opening stage, we could not continue this into the second day. Here, we just didn’t perform to our capabilities, which is a shame. After this performance, the entire team was very motivated to strike back, but then bad luck hit us in the third stage. It’s very good to see that the guys showed dedication and did a very good in the last two stages. We rode active as a team and this led two times to an almost stage win. Therefore, we can be happy with the result after five days of tough racing.”