For Tiesj Benoot it’s the second year in the U23 category and both years he rode for the U23 team of Lotto Belisol. This season he set some nice results. He became third in the U23 version of the Tour of Flanders and fifth in the one of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Also stage races suit the 20-year-old. He got second in the Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux and third in de Tour de l’Isard. This month Benoot got sixth in the European Championship road race.
His teammate Xandro Meurisse was also offered a traineeship. He’s part of the U23 category for the fourth year and is also riding his second season in the U23 team of Lotto Belisol. He crashed in the Giro Valle d’Aosta this month and had multiple fractures of his wrist and a rib injury. The 22-year-old won a stage in the Triptyque Ardennais this year and took a third place there as well. In the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for U23 he finished seventh.
Oliver Naesen rides for the Cibel team. He turns 24 in September. This year Oliver could triumph five times and he collected several other nice results. He became fourth in Dwars door de Vlaamse Ardennen and second in the first stage of the Tour de Liège. In the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad U23 Naesen got sixth. In May he was part of the selection for the Belgium Tour.
Sports director Kurt Van de Wouwer explains the choice for these three riders.
Kurt Van de Wouwer: “Tiesj Benoot is an allrounder. He can handle all sorts of terrain. It’s a rider who can go smoothly over the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix, just as the hills of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and even in the high mountains he can perform well. And he has fast legs. That’s a rare combination. Tiesj has prepared himself for this traineeship with a training camp, I expect he will prove that despite of his young age he’s ready to turn professional.”
“Just like Tiesj Benoot Xandro Meurisse is part of the Lotto Belisol U23 team for the second consecutive year, it’s his last year as U23. Xandro deserves this traineeship because of his regularity. This season he won a stage in the Triptyque Ardennais and often finished high in the rankings. Unfortunately he crashed in the prologue of the Giro Valle d’Aosta and fractured his wrist on five places. He underwent surgery in the hospital of Herentals and normally he should be able to return to competition at the end of August. Xandro is pretty fast at the finish and also hilly courses suit him.”
“Then there’s Oliver Naesen. He’s not part of our U23 team, but we certainly noticed him. Also he is very regular. Almost in every race he participated in, he showed himself. Oliver won some races this year and often got into top five. He’s a classic type, a man for the Flemish races.”
“Tiesj Benoot and Oliver Naesen will start in the Tour of Denmark. For Xandro that will be determined later, depending on how his injuries heal. They all get the opportunity to prove they are ready to take the step to the pro level. Via this traineeship they get the chance to show themselves. That can be in different ways. By doing their work for the leader, joining a breakaway or taking their own chance when that’s possible.”