Dutch team reveals its goals during team presentation
The Belkin team held its official presentation in the Netherlands, broadcast live online, on Monday morning, confirming that the Tour de France, the cobbled Classics and the Tour of California will again be the Dutch team's major goals in 2014.
The riders showed off the team's green and black jersey and answered questions from online viewers on stage, with Robert Gesink and the other riders in Australia for the Tour Down Under linking up with the presentation via internet.
Belkin won 39 races in 2013 and impressed at the Tour de France, with Bauke Mollema and Laurens ten Dam shining at the Tour de France. Mollema went onto finish sixth overall after taking second at the Tour de Suisse.
The team has added three riders to its roster for 2014, with Lars Boom and Sep Vanmarcke again the leaders for the cobbled Classics. Team manager Richard Plugge reaffirmed the team's goals for 2014 and laid out plans for growth and development after securing Belkin as a title sponsor in time for last year's Tour de France. The team will ride Bianchi bikes in 2014, with Santini on board as the new clothing sponsor.
"2013 it was a year of mixed emotions. In the early season, without a sponsor, we were down more or less in the gutter, but then Belkin came along in the summer and we were flying high," Plugge explained.
"It was a breakthrough moment. We presented a sponsor from outside the sport and the bright lights of that good moment gave us momentum for the Tour de France. We had a lot of highlights during the season; we had good team energy, got good results with 39 wins and we created a platform for growth, as a team and as a company.
"We will focus on the WorldTour [in 2014], it's the most important; we'll focus the Spring Classics with Lars (Boom) and Sep (Vanmarcke). Bauke (Mollema), Robert (Gesink), Wilco (Kelderman) and Laurens (Ten Dam) will be the team leaders for the Grand Tours and the hilly Classics. We also want to show ourselves at the Tour of California too. It's the backyard of (Belkin owner) Chet Pipkin and is where Belkin is based.
"We want to inspire people in the Tour de France but also in other races. We want to bringing cycling back to the hearts and minds of people and I promise we will do that with Team Belkin in 2014."
Mollema wants more in 2014
Bauke Mollema said he was ready to repeat his impressive 2013 season and would again target the Tour de France.
"I think I'm still the same as a person but there's more media attention and more fans interested in me, who are hoping for something from me. It's nice and shows what we did as a team in the Tour," he said.
"Last winter I did a lot more intensive work and I did the same in the last months. I'll start racing in February, two weeks later than last year but my programme is similar to last year and I'm looking forward to getting racing."
Las Boom will share team leadership in the Classics with Sep Vanmarcke.
"For Sep (Vanmarcke) maybe Flanders is the big one but for me it's Paris-Roubaix and I think it suits me the best," Boom said. "It's only one race a year and so it is special. I hope this year it will rain a lot and so it will be even more special."
"The Tour de France was really special for the team and we did a great team effort with Bauke. With the cobbled stages (this year), it'll be good for me. It's important to be there."
Vanmarcke crashed at Tirreno-Adriatico last year but fought back to finish second at Paris-Roubaix. He hopes for better fortune this year and went training on the new route of the Tour of Flanders at the weekend.
"I had a big crash in Tirreno and all training work was for nothing. The only goal left was Roubaix and being second was really good, a dream come true, but I was disappointed because I was so close to winning," he said.
Former track sprinter Theo Bos will again hope to provide a double-digit number of victories in the sprints, while Wilco Kelderman will lead the team in the Giro d'Italia along with Steven Kruijswijk, who is back on form after a series of injuries.
New signings include Frenchman Jonathan Hivert, young sprinter Barry Markus, plus talented young Dutchman Nick Van der Lijke.
Following the presentation, the riders gave further interviews and the riders went out for a mass ride with fans organised via Twitter.
The team will makes its WorldTour debut at the Santos Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Robert Gesink, Jack Bobridge and Graeme Brown lead the squad in Australia.