Place 18 - Zico Waeytens
Type of Rider: Stage races, Hilly classics
Biggest Success: 9th Tour of Denmark (2.HC)
Team/Club 2011: Omega Pharma Lotto Davo
Stagiaire: Topsport Vlaanderen (2011)
Team 2012: Topsport Vlaanderen
Best Mock List Ranking: new
What a difference a single race can make. It is up to speculation where Zico Waeytens would have placed in this ranking if there had not been the Tour of Denmark. If nominated at all, then certainly not inside the Top20. But with his ninth rank in the general classification in this tour well-suited for allrounders, the Fleming put up one of the best performances of a U23 rider in a Pro-Race this year. And with that he surely proved himself to be ready for a higher level. Though, at the beginning of august, this result was not even a need for him anymore. Because Topsport Vlaanderen, the team he rode for in Denmark as a stagiaire, already signed him in July for the next season. That is why there has to be something more about this aspiring rider than this one big result. And there is.
Although Waeytens was somewhat overshadowed by the same-aged Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and the younger Jasper Stuyven in the junior ranks, he still was clearly among the world’s best. In his second year, 2009, he won two important tours with Kroz-Istru (2.NC) and Liège – La Gleize (2.1) against the very best like Démare and Kelderman. As well worth mentioning is the third place in the Classique des Alpes, which suggests what kind of rider he is and where he sees himself in the future – as a stage racer. With 1,78m and 64kg he surely has the right body measurements for that. But also on flat terrain and even in sprints he can do a proper job, which somehow automatically qualifies him for the Ardennes classics. A valid proof for his flat race compatibility is the third place in the GP Waregem in March 2010, which was one of his first U23 races at all. Altogether he rode a respectable first U23 season for the Omega-Lotto Pharma farm team with some decent results in the mountainous stage races Tour de Pays de Savoie (18., 2.2U) and Tour of Oberösterreich (10., 2.2) and crowned by a stage win in the Vuelta a Navarra out of a breakaway group.
The 2011 season began strong for him with among others a third place in the Vlaamse Pijl (1.2). But after that two falls at the Tour de Normandie and U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège slowed the 19 year old West Fleming down for some weeks. He continued racing, but problems with his knee hindered him to make use of his full potential. It was not until the Tour of Slovakia (2.2) in June that he was pain-free again and immediately he captured a string of top ten places there. Afterwards his intention was to start in the Tour de Pays de Savoie, just like last year. But the coach of the national team recommended the hilly one day race Flèche Ardenaisse (1.2) as a preparation for the European championships. This proved to be a truly great decision, because Waeytens won the race in style holding off the main peloton with a stunning solo effort in the last ten kilometers. His first pro victory - and what a great one! With this in his pocket he could afford to slightly disappoint with the 47th rank at the European championships in Italy.
With his excellent performance at the Tour of Denmark as well as being regular part of Belgium’s U23 Nations Cup squad this year, Waeytens should have a good chance for a spot in the team for Copenhagen. In 2012, he will start his professional career with second division Team Topsport Vlaanderen just like Bakelants, Hermans, De Gendt or Vanendert had done with great success in recent past. Perhaps, in a few years, you can also add Zico Waeytens to the growing list of promising Belgian stage racers.
Nominated by chreezer, written by chreezer, translated by chreezer