An interview with Jurgen Van den Broeck, July 6, 2008
Jurgen Van den Broeck was one of the revelations in this year's Giro d'Italia. Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake looked back at the Giro, checked out where the Belgian came from and where he is headed.
Jurgen Van den Broeck had a stellar Giro d'Italia, finishing the Grand Tour in seventh place. His eighth place in stage 15 really got people's attention. The race that day finished on the terribly steep Passo Fedaia (Marmolada).
The team time trial on the first day is not Silence's specialty, so Van den Broeck stayed anonymously in the first week. Things started to go his way in stage 7, when he hung with the group of favourites. He moved up into the top 30.
"I want to do well in the Tour de France one day." - Van den Broeck sets his ambitions high.
After the rest day the 2001 junior time trial champion tackled his specialty, the race against the clock. The result may have been a little less than he expected from himself (13th at 1'08 of winner Marzio Bruseghin). But he moved into 16th place in GC. His gap to the favourites remained minimal, with Alberto Contador the farthest away, at 2'43.
He then created one of the big surprises on stage 14. Besides the unexpected domination of Emanuele Sella, Van den Broeck ended the day in 10th place and was even half a minute ahead of Contador. He crossed the line together with Gilberto Simoni, just a few seconds behind Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott).
He said afterwards, "I was feeling great today. I think my move to Italy at the beginning of the season has paid off. My climbing is getting better and better!"
Then came the queen of stages, ending on the Passo Fedaia and taking in all the beauty and brutality of the dolomite climbs. Van den Broeck hung tough and was only 3'18 behind the winner, but trailed all the favourites only by around a minute. This propelled him into the top ten, now 2'50 behind race leader Alberto Contador.
Van den Broeck continued his good form, netting a 12th place in the tough Plan de Corones uphill time trial. He revealed that "this was a very steep climb. I was suffering a bit and lost some time, but I am content. I am still in the top 10."
He confirmed his form in the final two mountain stages, not conceding any time to the favourites. The three weeks had taken its toll and the final time trial was nothing to write home about. But his performance was good enough to swap places with last year's Giro winner Danilo Di Luca and getting his best result to date.
Van den Broeck had a bit of a slow start in the sport. It wasn't until his third year as a beginner, when he obtained seven wins, that things started to look promising. In his second year as a junior in 2001 he had eight wins. The most notable was the World Championships title in Portugal in the time trial. He was the first Belgian to accomplish this feat.
"That was a great race. It was the first time I had the feeling that I could maybe go pro one day." Van den Broeck still has fond memories of the greatest day in his junior career.
In 2003 he went to Quickstep - Davitamon, which was a 'farm team' for Quick Step. His directeur sportif was former professional rider Herman Frison. Frison is a sports director at Silence Lotto today. But Van den Broeck didn't go the obvious way to either Quick Step or Lotto. Instead, he joined what he called "the dream team." He just couldn't refuse the offer from Lance Armstrong's Lance Armstrong US Postal Service team. Quickstep - Davitamon was not happy about it.
His years at US Postal formed the Belgian well. He was given time to develop. When US Postal decided to leave the sport and stopped mailing those paychecks, Van den Broeck managed to be get on the Discovery Channel squad. He stayed with them for another year, but after three years spent with US teams, he decided to go back to Europe.
It was then that he joined Predictor-Lotto – which became Silence-Lotto in 2008 – and met up again with Frison. "I felt it was time to come home. I had learnt a lot in my years with the US teams and especially from someone like Lance Armstrong. But getting back together with Frison was nice. And there is just a bit more familiarity for me within a Belgian team."
A great time trialer
Van den Broeck – nicknamed the 'locomotive of Morkhoven' – is a strong time trialer. Morkhoven is his hometown. Besides winning the junior World Championship title, his abilities to race against the clock netted him good results in various races. He finished fifth in the 2005 Belgian time trial Championships and third in 2007.
"I want to do well in the Tour de France one day. My time trial abilities should come in handy. And I have shown in the Giro that I can climb well, too." Van den Broeck hasn't ridden the Tour yet, but he does count it as one of two favourite courses. The other is Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In the latter he has taken part a few times. While he hasn't had any good results yet, he is certainly suited the course's characteristics.
"I have done it [Liège-Bastogne-Liège - ed.] since my second year as a pro. I have never been able to contend for the victory. But the Giro gave me confidence that I will be able to well in this great Belgian Classic in the future."
There is now worries about the young rider's future. It appears to be bright, with possible victories in one-day classics just as likely as taking out a Grand Tour.