Vandenbergh: I want to race for another year

Cyclingnews
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 AG2R La Mondiale’s Stijn Vandenbergh at the 2020 Ruta del Sol
AG2R La Mondiale’s Stijn Vandenbergh at the 2020 Ruta del Sol

Classics specialist Stijn Vandenbergh has told the Belgian press that he'd like to continue racing into the 2021 season, and the 36-year-old would prefer to do that with current team AG2R La Mondiale, although he's willing to go elsewhere if necessary.

"I'd prefer to stay with the team," the Belgian told Het Nieuwsblad at AG2R's training camp in Vaujany, in the , on Tuesday. "We'll see. There's also interest from other teams, but I definitely want to race for another year."

Vandenbergh has been with AG2R since 2017, joining from QuickStep in the same year as compatriot Oliver Naesen, who's risen up the ranks to become one of the French WorldTour team's Classics leaders.

Vandenbergh joined Vincent Lavenu's team from QuickStep – and he featured in manager Patrick Lefevere's 'Classics dream team' for Cyclingnews – but the Belgian also spent a season with AG2R in 2008, before moving on to Katusha.

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Vandebergh has tasted victory on a stage of the 2016 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, and also won a stage and took the overall title at the Tour of Ireland back in 2007, but the 6' 6" rider has mainly carved out a role for himself as a key Classics domestique.

"It's a bit unfortunate that I have not really been able to show myself this year, but that applies to a lot of riders," he said, having only ridden the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, the Clasica de Almeria and the Ruta del Sol – all in Spain – so far during this foreshortened 2020 season.

"I wasn't there at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad or Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne due to illness, and then, after that, the coronavirus pandemic struck, although I'm not worrying too much about my future," said Vandenbergh, reiterating that he'd prefer to stay with AG2R.

"There are already some Belgians on the team, and that makes it fun," he said. "Some time in mid-July, I'll sit down with the team management, and hopefully I can stay. If it doesn't work out, so be it, but I think I still have value in the Classics core of a team. So I hope I can continue to race – here or in another team."

According to Het Nieuwsblad, Vandenbergh is set to resume his season at Milano-Torino on August 5, followed by Milan-San Remo on August 8 and then the Tour de Wallonie, from August 16-19.

He'll then do the BinckBank Tour (September 29-October 3) in readiness for the team's 'spring' Classics campaign, with Gent-Wevelgem (October 11), the Tour of Flanders (October 18) and Paris-Roubaix (October 25), where he'll ride in the service of Naesen.

"I want to be good for those one-day races," Vandebergh said. "It will be special, because everyone's going to be keen to show themselves, and I'm interested to see how it all turns out."