The Belkin team has confirmed that it has retained the services of Grand Tour riders Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman and Steven Kruijswijk for 2015 and 2016 as it looks to build for the future after securing backing from the Dutch national lottery, De Lotto, and Brandloyalty.
Belkin opted not to continue its sponsorship of the team in 2015 but team manager Richard Plugge has a formal declaration of intent from De Lotto and Brandloyalty and so has been able to keep the Dutch team alive. The team has lost Bauke Mollema to Trek and Lars Boom to Astana for 2015 but has Laurens ten Dam, sprinter Moreno Hofland and Classics rider Sep Vanmarcke under contract.
“With Robert, Wilco and Steven we keep the top GC riders with us. We’re proud that they have chosen our vision. Along with Laurens ten Dam, Moreno Hofland and Sep Vanmarcke we now have a strong core in our team,” Plugge said, in an official announcement from the team.
“Thanks to the training Rabobank provided these guys with and the initiated support of De Lotto and Brandloyalty we can keeping developing our vision. The cooperation with Jac Orie’s speed skating team ensures that we have one team, with talents who will make their presence felt throughout the year. We are confident that the business world will appreciate this new project and will embrace it.”
The 23-year-old Kelderman finished an impressive seventh at the Giro d'Italia and had been linked to Orica-GreenEdge and Team Sky. He hopes to make his debut at the Tour de France in 2015.
“I’m super happy to have the opportunity to perform at the highest level for the next two years under a beautiful new Dutch sponsor," Kelderman said in the team statement.
"There was some interest for me, but I feel good in this familiar environment where, as a young rider, I can ride for my own chances. Besides, this is simply the best team for a Dutchman. I hope to ride the Tour de France next year and to obtain great results as a team."
Gesink hopes to be back to his best
Gesink is only 28 but is considered the veteran of the team after being part of the team, then sponsored by Rabobank, since 2007. He returned racing at the Tour of Poland last week, where he finished eighth overall, having undergone heart surgery in May to treat a cardiac arrhythmia. He is a talented climber and finished fifth overall at the 2010 Tour de France.
“I’m very pleased that the largest Dutch cycling project ever will continue with De Lotto and Brand Loyalty. I’m happy to be a part of this project," Gesink said.
"After a difficult period, I feel that I’m on my way to re-connect with the top and to make beautiful things happen again. Within this team, I find a lot of people whom I worked with when I achieved my best performances. I’m happy that I can keep working with them the coming years.
“Wilco and I connect well in terms of character and I expect that we can help each other to reach a higher level. I’m very happy to have my friend and neighbour Steven Kruijswijk as a teammate and of course veteran Laurens ten Dam. Together we are a strong core of contenders for races which will be decided in the mountains.”
Tom Leezer, Barry Markus, Paul Martens, ten Dam and Nick van der Lijke all have existing contracts for next year while Moreno Hofland and Sep Vanmarcke renewed their contracts with the team during the season until 2016.