Stage 2 of the Benelux Tour was the main goal of the European time trial champion. On the eleven-kilometre time trial around Lelystad, Stefan Küng then did what he had to do. However, he came up against two faster riders on Tuesday and had to settle for third place at the finish. Thanks to his performance, he also climbed to third place overall.
“It’s not that bad”, Stefan Küng
In the aftermath of a very lively opening stage, which already caused some damage in the general classification, the traditional Benelux Tour’s time trial was supposed to establish a first hierarchy on Tuesday. This year’ route was designed around Lelystad, over just 11.1 kilometres. “It was a very rolling, super fast course,” explained Julien Pinot, one of the team’s coaches. “There was a small technical part in the first third of the route, but otherwise, it was extremely flat for eleven kilometers. It was also a little bit windy, but I don’t think the wind changed over the course of the day, so it didn’t play a major role”. Among the very first riders to leave the launch pad, Benjamin Thomas immediately set a relevant time of 12’44. So much so that when his teammate Stefan Küng took the start two hours later, the French champion still had the seventh fastest time. In the meantime, Edoardo Affini established an impressive time of 12’23, but Stefan Bissegger then stormed the best time, crossing the line in 12’08. Then underway, Stefan Küng was twelve seconds behind his fellow-countryman at the intermediate check, and eventually got to the line in third position, twenty seconds back. Among the last competitors, no one climbed on the day’s podium and the European champion therefore retained his place until the end.
“First of all, it’s disappointing because Stefan always wants to win when he starts a time trial,” said Julien Pinot. “We did everything to make it happen, but when you look at the gap at the finish, and considering that he did a good physical performance, we do not see where we could have taken back those 20 seconds. It’s frustrating at times, but in sports you also come up against stronger opponents sometimes. A few years ago, Stefan also won the time trial in this race with a 15 second-margin. Since then, the level has increased enormously and there are a lot of specialists here. Riders like Asgreen and Dumoulin, who beat him in the Tour and the Olympic Games respectively, finished behind him today. The level is very homogenous. We got third place today, but it’s still a very high level performance. Bissegger was just unbeatable when you see his performance”. “I did a decent time trial, but Bissegger was just too strong today so congratulations to him for an incredible effort,” said the Swiss rider. “I’m also aware that I am in a preparation period. So even though I wanted to win, it’s not demoralizing to be third in this event. Considering my preparation and my future goals, it’s not that bad today”.
“It’s promising”, Julien Pinot
In this second stage, Groupama-FDJ also placed Benjamin Thomas in the top-15, in thirteenth position. As for Stefan Küng, he was therefore able to gain some confidence. “After the Olympic Games, he had a short period of rest and then went on a training camp in altitude to get the work done”, added Julien. “He really committed there but the goal rather is on the second part of September. He has worked well and had some great sessions, but the goal is to improve a step further for the European and World championships as well as for Paris-Roubaix. Anyway, it’s promising. His physical performance is good and we will continue to work and give our best towards the World’s goal”. Before that, he’ll first have to complete the Benelux Tour as he currently sits 3rd overall. “I think I’ll get better and better as the week goes on, and the goal is to stay in front and do the best I can in the next few days,” added Stefan. “Let’s not forget he’s just returning to racing, and we will take it day by day”, concluded Julien Pinot. “That being said, Stefan is always aiming for results, so he’s going to give his best. We’ll see where that takes him in the weekend, but we can expect a lot of action in the next few days.”