Belkin has entered Steven Kruijswijk into the Vuelta a España but the overall winner of the Arctic Race of Norway confirmed to Cyclingnews that he won't line up for a third consecutive Grand Tour in Jerez de la Frontera on Saturday. Instead, he will rest up for the GP of Québec and Montreal while Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman and Laurens ten Dam will ride GC for the Dutch team in Spain.
"I'm very happy I could hold the jersey on a very hard day of racing," said Kruijswijk after he took the first stage race victory of his pro career. "I knew before the circuit would be hard, but we had to chase the breakaway down hard. The team did really well there."
"On the last climb, I was struggling a little bit to catch up with these guys, but I could come back. In the last corners, I knew I was fighting for the victory. Kristoff came close. With the advantage I had over him on GC, I had a bit of space. I was pretty confident but you never know, especially with these guys, [Hushovd and Kristoff] they are really good in cornering."
The Dutchman had in mind the horrendous crash that took him down in stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia to Montecassino and forced him to pull out three days later. "To win a general classification is a very important step in my career," said Kruijswijk. "I've had to deal with injuries in the past two years but coming back and winning is stepping stone in my career. I'll bring great memories back at home, not only because of winning but also because it's special to race so far north, including at the North Cape. The race was very well organized and the course suited me. A lot of riders were happy with the event."
In five years in the World Tour, Kruijswijk has already started seven Grand Tours, and he finished six of them with very promising results as early as in his first two Giro d'Italia (18th in 2010 and eighth in 2011). Having hopefully put his bad luck behind, the 27-year-old is ready for more responsibilities in the Dutch team soon to be renamed under De Lotto and Brand Loyalty. The departure of Bauke Mollema to Trek might give him and Kelderman more space. He's known for being a very consistent rider, albeit sometimes in the shadow of his teammates. While recovering from the bad time he had at the Giro, he completed the Tour de France in 15th place while his teammates and compatriots Ten Dam and Mollema finished ninth and 10th respectively.
"I'm glad that I can stay with this team," Kruijswijk said. "I've been in it for a few years now and I feel at home here. I have great colleagues and I like the way we work. I know the coaches, they know me, and together we are a well-oiled machine. I haven't been at my best last year because of an injury, however I've always felt the team's support. I hope to get back to my old level and give the team something in return for their support."