Fresh from 12th place overall at the Vuelta a España, Johnny Hoogerland is confident that the Dutch team can be a force at this week's World Championship road race on Sunday in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
Hoogerland will race alongside Robert Gesink, Karsten Kroon, Lars Boom, Sebastian Langeveld and Koos Moerenhout in Sunday's road race. Hoogerland, who will make his World Championship debut in the race, told Cyclingnews that the Vuelta had set him up well for the Worlds.
"Those that did the Vuelta will have a big advantage at [this year's Worlds] because the it was a very hard Grand Tour. It's true what they say; you have to do the Vuelta if you want to do well at the Worlds."
Recovering at home in the Netherlands this week, Hoogerland said he expects to ride in support of Robert Gesink and Karsten Kroon in Mendrisio. "I feel good, I just need this week to rest," he said. "We arrive in Switzerland on Thursday and will I would expect that Robert Gesink and Karsten will be the men for the finale, and the other four of us will be there to help them."
Hoogerland said that he had spoken to Gesink, who has recovered well from a knee injury sustained on stage 17 of the Vuelta. "It was better, he said. He had a really bad day and lost all that time, but the next day his time trial was very, very good; an incredible recovery. I hope that he is going well on Sunday, because he can be someone who can win the race."
Both Hoogerland, 26, and Gesink, 23, are part of a young breed of riders who are quickly coming to represent the future of Dutch cycling. Although the traditionally strong cycling nation has only qualified six riders for this year's Elite road race, with an average age of 27 the Dutch Worlds team is a sign that the opportunity has been taken to test the country's younger riders.
Hoogerland believes that the reduced representation may be an advantage on the tough Mendrisio course. "I spoke to Karsten and he said there have been years where we've had a large team where half the riders don't even make it to the second feed zone. Now, with six very strong riders it's better than having a [big team] where maybe half won't make it [to the critical part of the race]."
While he is confident that the Dutch will ride strongly on Sunday, Hoogerland indicated that Spain and Italy will be the teams to beat. He named Italian Damiano Cunego as the outright race favourite, but pointed to Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen as a serious threat for rainbow jersey.
"I think Spain and Italy are the favorites. Cunego was very strong in the two stages that he won [at the Vuelta] and he is the true favourite. But Boasson Hagen is very, very strong," he said.
"Karsten can win the sprint when there's a group of say 20 riders. I think that it is going to come down to a group like that. The course is so hard that only the best will be there at the end; no doubt about it."
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