It may only be mid-March but Team Blanco are already feeling the strain as they look to assemble a competitive squad for next week’s Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Injury and illness to key team members in recent weeks has seen the Dutch squad stumble towards the Spanish stage race with doubts over the health of team leader Robert Gesink, who abandoned last week’s Paris-Nice.
Despite uncertainly over Gesink's form the team has enjoyed a strong start to the season with 10 wins in total.
The team has already named its squad for Catalunya with Stef Clement, Robert Wagner, Laurens ten Dam, Steven Kruijswijk, Jetse Bol, Jack Bobridge, and Moreno Hofland joining Gesink.
Both Bobridge and Hofland have been drafted in to replace Juan Manuel Gárate and Marc Goos, with the Spaniard recovering from flu and Goos finding his feet after surgery on a broken collar bone.
“With Robert, the big question is how well he has recovered from Paris-Nice as he had to abandon the race there. The same goes for Steven who took a spill. Laurens was in preparation for the Tour of the Basque Country and the classics and did not ride for three weeks. In the meantime, he has also been sick,” said team director Merijn Zeeman.
“As usual, we’re aiming for a good finish in the final standings, but in this case, we have to take a wait and see approach. Sunday, we’ll see how fit the guys are and what expectations are therefore realistic”.
A Dutch rider has only won the race once, with Ariel den Hartog topping the standings in 1966.
The race begins on Monday with a 159.3km stage in Calella.