Tim Wellens is a Hammer Series veteran - the Belgian puncheur starred for Lotto Soudal at Hammer Limburg in both 2017 and 2018. This year, Wellens is the appointed Hammer Captain of his team as they take on Hammer Stavanger (24-26 May) next week.
We speak to the 28-year-old double Giro d’Italia stage winner ahead of a busy programme of racing leading up to the Tour de France:
Did you take a break after your busy Spring Classics season?
After Liège-Bastogne-Liège I went to Dubai for a week. I needed to test some clothes in the heat, so it was a combination of holiday and testing. Now I’m back training.
I have quite a lot of racing coming up before the Tour de France: Hammer Stavanger, Tour of Norway, Hammer Limburg, Tour of Belgium, then the Belgian championship time trial and road race. It should all be perfect preparation for the Tour in July.
Is Hammer Series very tactical, just full gas, or both?
The two races I’ve done were pretty much just full gas. It wasn’t really about tactics but in terms of power and watts, it’s the hardest race of the season. It’s short, but from Kilometre Zero until the end, it’s a flat-out race.
But Hammer Series is also nice for the atmosphere in the team. It’s a team effort, a little bit less pressure on one rider. For me that’s nice. It’s not that I’m not motivated [to win for myself] but I feel a little bit less pressure, because it’s not only about me.
Which Lotto Soudal riders will suit the various events at Hammer Series?
Bjorg Lambrecht is another fast climber, and he will be able to take a lot of points in the Hammer Climb. Then we have Nikolas Maes and Lawrence Naesen - they will be key riders for the Hammer Sprint. We have one Norwegian rider, Carl Fredrik Hagen, and he’ll be good everywhere.
Would you like another shot at the Giro d’Italia in coming seasons?
I’d like to go back to the Giro. But for me personally one big tour every year is enough. The Tour is slightly more important than the Giro, and I want to try and make a good result at the Tour this season.
I want to win a stage at the Tour. I’ve won two stages at the Giro but the Tour de France is a different league. I would be really, really happy with a stage win. With Caleb Ewan, we also have a big chance of taking the yellow jersey on the first day in the sprint.
Have you already researched which Tour stages suit you best?
To be honest, for the moment, I haven’t looked closely. But when the Tour is coming closer I will take a detailed look at every stage and then I will see which ones are possible for me.
At Hammer Series, the Hammer Climb is definitely the event that suits me best. Last year I took a lot of points there. And there are not many races where you suffer like the Hammer Series, it’s so intense.
Did you watch Victor Campanaerts’ successful Hour Record attempt?
Of course, we were totally behind him and shouting for him. Everyone had a lot of confidence that he would make it - but we didn’t know he would make it with so much to spare.
Are you aiming for another #TheFinalBreakaway ride with Thomas De Gendt, for after this season?
We are planning it at the moment, actually. We’re thinking to do it at the end of November. There is an area in Spain, between Calpe and Madrid, with almost nobody living there.
We’re planning to ride six days, around six or seven hundred kilometers, with 80 % gravel roads. So it will be the same start and finish: we’ll do a big lap, with our luggage on the bikes.
There’s almost no population, quite abandoned … the trip is still in the early phase, we have to plan, it’s not 100 % sure yet. It’s a nice thing just to ride for fun and it’s nice to ride with Thomas, because his sense of humour is fantastic.
Day 6. Early start in the dark. Fast pace again and almost no stops. Flat tyre at 5km from the finish but happy we did this. Now time for some rest and vacation. Thank you @Tim_Wellens for the company and the great moments. 200km in 6h40. #TheFinalBreakaway pic.twitter.com/TYKvyuoy7X— Thomas De Gendt (@DeGendtThomas) October 19, 2018