Belgian team strengthens its squad before ambitious 2014
Lotto-Belisol launched its WorldTour, women's UCI team and U23 squad in the football stadium of AA Ghent on Thursday night. Team manager Marc Sergeant was very clear about his expectations for next season.
"Things need to be better next year. In our perception, and that of our sponsors and fans, last year was not good compared to 2012 when we had three stage wins with André Greipel and a fourth place in the overall of the Tour de France. A win in a major Classic is a must in 2014."
That's why the Belgian team strengthened both its men's and women's teams considerably. It said goodbye to ten riders and welcomed nine new riders to the team: Sander Armée (Topsport Vlaanderen), Kris Boeckmans and Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM), Tony Gallopin and Maxime Monfort (Radioshack-Leopard), Vegard Breen (Joker-Merida), Stig Broeckx (Lotto-Belisol U23), Boris Vallée (Color Code-Biowanze) and Sean de Bie (Leopard-Trek).
The women's team only kept three of its 2013 team and welcomed former Flèche Wallonne winner Emma Pooley, former Belgian champion Liesbeth de Vocht from Rabobank and Australian rider Amy Cure among others.
The theme of the presentation and that of the three teams throughout 2014 is Live the dream. It's printed prominently on the new team kit. "My dream is to win a Classic," team manager Sergeant said. "But we saw that relying on one rider like Jürgen Roelandts who had flat tyres at crucial moments, or in the Tour de France on Jurgen van den Broeck makes us vulnerable. That's why we are happy with signing Tony Gallopin who already proved he can win a Classic in San Sebastian."
Apart from the Tour de France, the Belgian team never had a contender for a top ten position in the Giro or Vuelta. "We always went into the Giro to win a stage and amazingly enough we also did that in the past five years. We are very happy with Maxime Monfort who we have been courting for a few years now. When I said to him that there would be no Tour for him in 2014 he had to think but he now aims for a top ten in both the Giro and Vuelta."
The Tour de France still remains a major race for Lotto-Belisol. Jurgen van den Broeck finished just outside of the podium in 2010 and 2012. "My dream obviously is to step onto that podium." After a crash at the finish of stage 5, Van den Broeck sustained a serious injury to his knee which cut his season short. It's not the first time the 30-year old Belgian met this faith. In 2011 he crashed out in stage 11.
"I am pretty sick of it now. This year's crash changed me mentally and physically but now I feel good. The rehabilitation went completely according to plan, without any delays, so I am ready for next year. Tirreno Adriatico is the first big goal, then the Classics in the Ardennes and the Tour of course," Van den Broeck said.
The Lotto-Belisol WorldTour team consists of 27 riders with 19 of them coming from Belgium. Next season will mark the the 30th season of sponsorship by the Belgian national lottery, making it the longest running sponsor in the current peloton.