Wilco Kelderman and Robert Gesink have been named as co-leaders of the LottoNL-Jumbo line-up for the Tour de France, which gets underway in Utrecht on July 4. The Dutch team is the first to announce its roster for the Tour, and the composition of the nine-man roster reflects the mountainous nature of the parcours.
Gesink, 5th overall in 2010, and Tour debutant Kelderman are joined in the squad by Laurens ten Dam, who finished 9th overall at last year’s Tour, and Steven Kruijswijk, who impressed in finishing 7th overall at the recent Giro d’Italia.
Sep Vanmarcke will lead the line for LottoNL-Jumbo on stage 4 over the cobbles to Cambrai. Bram Tankink, Tom Leezer, Jos van Emden and Paul Martens are also included, but there is no place for sprinter Moreno Hofland.
"Facing the profile, we didn’t target the bunch sprints as much as before. This year, we’re starting with more climbers. Robert and Wilco are our front men, but also Laurens and Steven proved themselves in big tours already," directeur sportif Nico Verhoeven said.
Perhaps mindful of how early crashes ruined Gesink’s hopes in 2009 and 2012, Verhoeven acknowledged that the team was hedging its bets somewhat by including four riders all with the potential to finish in the top 10 overall in Paris.
"With this group of four, we have less of a risk of losing our general classifications ambitions completely after the first part. We’re able to spread out our chances. That means that we’re not focusing on just one team leader," he said.
The 24-year-old Kelderman, however, is the man who will shoulder the greatest expectation when he lines up for the start in Utrecht. He finished seveth overall in last year’s Giro and 14th at the Vuelta a España, and though he was hindered by a crash at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, he reaches July with high hopes.
"I’ve been preparing specifically for the Tour de France the last five weeks. I’ve had a training camp at altitude and rode the Criterium du Dauphiné as preparation," he said.
"I’m looking forward to the start in Utrecht and to the stage to Alpe d’Huez the most. The next week and a half, I’m going to do some specific training on my time trial bike and rest so that I will be fresh at the start."
Gesink missed last year’s Tour as he underwent surgery to correct cardiac arrhythmia but he has enjoyed a solid 2015 campaign to date, placing 5th at the Tour of California and 9th at the Tour de Suisse.
"For the moment, I have to make sure that I have time enough to rest from my effort in the Tour de Suisse. Besides that, I’m planning to preview the stage to Plateau de Beille from my home in Girona," Gesink said.
The team has confirmed that both Gesink and Kelderman will forgo the Dutch national championships road race at the weekend as they continue their preparations for the Tour.
LottoNL-Jumbo team for the Tour de France: Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman, Laurens ten Dam, Steven Kruijswijk, Sep Vanmarcke, Bram Tankink, Tom Leezer, Jos van Emden and Paul Martens.