Robert Gesink will return to racing on Sunday for the first time since his successful heart surgery, when he lines up for the Dutch Road Championships in Ootmarsum on Sunday.
The Belkin rider dropped out of competition after suffering from a cardiac arrhythmia that caused him to lose power during races over the past few years.
He returned to training a month later with an altitude camp in the Sierra Nevadas, and was due to start in the Ster ZLM Toer, but skipped the race to recover from a crash that occurred during that camp. He also ruled out racing the Tour de France.
Belkin directeur sportif Merijn Zeeman is hoping his team can make a statement in the race. "People can expect that we are going to make it a real race," Zeeman said. "We will ride offensively. We want to show who we are, and make it an attractive race for the fans."
Belkin announced that it would not renew its sponsorship of the team after this year, and the team is currently seeking a replacement in addition to crowd-sourcing funding from fans.
The team will line up at the championships with 15 riders, including Lars Boom who won the title on the same course in 2008.
“I'm glad I’ve been able to win in the past. It would be nice to do it again this year. The red, white and blue jersey is very special to wear in the Tour de France," Boom said. "Last year, the parcours in Limburg was extremely hard, but in Ootmarsum, our majority can work in our favour.”
The team will be missing sprinter Moreno Hofland and Bauke Mollema, who will rest up for the Tour de France. But Maarten Tjallingii said the team will work together to bring home the tricolor jersey.
"Everyone is always very motivated and so am I," Tjallingii said. I feel good, but when I look around me I see several of our guys who are looking strong, as well. It's important that we fight Sunday's battle as a team. If we do that, we have the best chance of winning. You must dare to lose, in order to win."
"It's going to be a very long and hard race. It's going to be a real fight. We will need to stay focused, because the wide roads are repeatedly interspersed with narrow paths. It will be an open race in which we have to support each other in the breakaways. It certainly is going to be a great race."
Belkin for Dutch national championships: Lars Boom, Theo Bos, Stef Clement, Laurens ten Dam, Jos van Emden, Rick Flens, Robert Gesink, Martijn Keizer, Wilco Kelderman, Steven Kruijswijk, Tom Leezer, Nick van der Lijke, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii and Dennis van Winden.