ROGER KLUGE AND CALEB EWAN
Kluge is lead-out man for Lotto-Soudal’s Ewan: The main role I play for Caleb is to position him and Jasper [de Buyst] in the final, to get them into a good position in the last kilometre, on the right wheels, and to start the sprint or to hold them steady if necessary. Some days, I’ll also keep him out of the wind in the last 4 to 5km. Frederik Frison usually does that job, but if he’s not around, then I do it. I’ve not done so many Grand Tours, but I’m getting older and I’m quite experienced, so I know exactly what I need to do to be in position, and that means that he can be a bit more, let’s say, relaxed, knowing that we will take him to exactly the place that he wants to be.
When it comes to the sprint, we know each other pretty well now, so we don’t have to shout at each other any more. It’s instinctive. For example, on the stage to Ile de Ré , it was important to be in a good position with 25km to go just before the bridge to the island. I invested a lot of energy at that point. Then Fred took over and led Caleb further up the bunch approaching the bridge. He found his way onto Sam Bennett’s wheel and stuck to it. I went up in the last kilometre just in case he needed me to lead him up, but he was glued to that wheel and he started his sprint there.
We lost John Degenkolb and Philippe Gilbert early on in the race and then went down to five because we lost Steff [Cras] in the Pyrenees. He would normally do the job of chasing the break. He’d also be the rider who would stay with Caleb in the mountains. So, if we needed to chase back up to the gruppetto, he would do it. But since he went home, we’ve had to use Thomas [De Gendt] for that. Up to that point, he could save his energy for the days when he wanted to go in the break.
With John and Phil out, we’ve lost two big engines for the final, so Fred, Jasper and me have to time our efforts well or leave Caleb to do the last three kilometres alone. It’s important that he’s in position, and it’s not easy now doing a lead-out with three guys. If you look at Sunweb, they’ve always got six or seven guys at the front and on stage 10, for instance, we had only two because Jasper had a mechanical. That was the difference when he was beaten by Sam Bennett. If he could have started a little bit earlier, just a second before, he could have come around Bennett, but that’s sprinting. They have to make split-second decisions. But we’ll keep trying to get him in the right position and give him a shot at wins. I can give him my bike. So it’s only when the car passes me that I can go really easy. On a flat stage it’s different again, I just give him my bike straight away [as was the case towards the end of stage 14 into Lyon] and then he maybe changes his bike later if he gets the chance.
Richie seems to be going better and better and we’ll keep working to try to get him as high as possible in the standings. Seeing him contend like this gives us real motivation, it spreads through the team. You always want to give your best.
MARCO MARCATO AND TADEJ POGACAR
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