Dutch champion happy at Androni Giocatolli
Johnny Hoogerland surprised many by signing with Androni Giocatolli-Venezuela for the 2014 season but is looking forward to starting a new chapter in his career.
The 30-year-old Dutchman has just completed his first team training camp with his new teammates.
"It's a much smaller team than Vacansoleil-DCM. We started the training camp without the Venezuelan riders so the group was even smaller. It felt very family-like. A nice, new adventure," he said.
After five years with Vacansoleil-DCM, Hoogerland starts his first season in a foreign team but is happy.
"I speak Dutch, French and English so I can manage with the communication. I won't say it's super easy but it's easier than expected. Plus the fact that I usually settle in somewhere quite fast," he told Cyclingnews from his training base in Spain.
"Though I am not really at ease at the moment," he smiles. "I am keeping an eye on my phone and am happy to go home tomorrow. Our baby is due the day before Christmas so these are exciting times. I am actually quite nervous about the birth of our first child."
Hoogerland turned pro in 2009 when Vacansoleil received a Professional Continental license. The Dutch champion stayed with the team for five years but after its demise was left looking for a new home. Several teams were interested but they kept him waiting. When his former teammate Matteo Carrara brought him into contact with Androni Giocattoli, Hoogerland was happy to join Gianno Savio's team.
"It was a waiting game with the other teams and when Androni came along, I said let's do this. It's a new adventure and the WorldTour is not an absolute must for me. Yes, I won't ride the Tour de France but the Giro is a great race. Their race programme was vital to me, not the quantity but the quality of races they could offer me. "
"Androni has a great programme in Italy and they already received a wildcard for the Giro [as Coppa Italia winner]. If I stay healthy and everything goes well, I will be in the Giro team. Next to great races in Italy like the Trofeo Laigueglia, the Giro del Trentino, the Settimana Coppi e Bartali. Androni will also ride races in the north like the Seaports Classic and the Brabantse Pijl. It's a mixed programme and I am really looking forward to it."
Bouncing back from crashes
Staying healthy has not always been easy for the Dutchman. In the 2011 Tour de France he crashed hard and tangled in some barbed wire after a car from France Television skittled the breakaway. In February of 2013 a training accident in Spain meant he spent many months recovering from his injuries and chasing his form. He made a full recovery and won the Dutch national championships. It was an emotional moment for the sensitive Hoogerland but all those crashes haven't changed him.
"I am not afraid during races. You just have to ride or else you better off quitting. During training I don't take unnecessary risks. The roads are still wet in the morning here in Spain and I don't want to crash on a descent. So I ride a bit slower if needed."
Hoogerland's season starts in the GP Costa deli Etruschi on the second of February. Tirreno-Adriatico, one of the races Androni Giocattoli hopes to receive a wildcard for, is one of the first WorldTour races though Hoogerland is focused on being consistent.
"If you train hard all winter, you'd expect to be good when the season starts. And there are points to be gained in every race. I want to be good all year but the Giro will be the race to peak for. And with racing it's not about a whole bunch of race days. I love training and can prepare for big races just as well by training. Maybe I'll do some altitude training in April or maybe we can go to the Tour of Turkey. That would be great too."
The Dutch national title is also one of Hoogerland's ambitions. He hopes to keep his red-white-blue jersey.
"The Giro starts later this year so it's less than a month between the finish and the Championship on the 29th of June. In those four weeks there are many options to prepare for nationals."
"I have done more or less the same races in the past five years. Riding with Androni Giocattoli is completely different. It's a small team with a small budget but they are very professional. The communication between riders and staff is very good. I am looking forward to doing a year with completely different races. I signed for one year but maybe this is something that really suits me. We'll see about that later."
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