The LottoNL-Jumbo riders have set their goals and revealed their race programmes during the team’s official presentation in the Netherlands, with success in the sprints, the cobbled Classics and the Grand Tours the big goals for the 2016 season.
The Dutch team had a frustrating 2015 season, winning just seven races but has worked hard to create a new focus for 2016 and beyond. The loss of Belkin as a title sponsor after the 2014 season forced manager Richard Plugge to downsize the squad, and Bauke Mollema, Lars Boom and Theo Bos all moved on. However, Jumbo have confirmed their sponsorship until 2018, with LottoNL likely to confirm their backing in the spring. The team will again use Bianchi bikes.
The cycling team continues to work in tandem with the ice skating team and Sep Vanmarcke, Robert Gesink, Steven Kruijswijk and Moreno Hofland all have leadership roles in the yellow, black and white team colours for 2016.
“We have to be focused a lot more," Plugge explained. “We’re choosing the sprint first. We have three very good sprinters with Moreno Hofland, Dylan Groenewegen and Tom Van Asbroeck. It’s our job to make sure that those guys are at the right place in the right time. When we’re able to do that, they can win a lot of races.
“The second part we’re focussing on is the group of the general classification riders. We signed some riders who are able to stay with our front men much longer than what we did last year. Primoz Roglic and Enrico Battaglin are the best examples. When we’re looking at the long term, we’re going to work with young talents like Koen Bouwman and (the USA’s) Alexey Vermeulen. With those two cyclists we look to the future, the long game.
“With Sep Vanmarcke, we also have a world-class rider in the spring Classics on the cobblestones and we have Mike Teunissen and Tom Van Asbroeck as well, our trumps in the spring Classics. We have to use our lead-out for the sprint as well for bringing Sep in good position in the spring Classics.”
Working for Moreno Hofland
LottoNL-Jumbo hope that Hofland can delver in the sprints after a back problem slowed him in 2015. The team has worked on their lead-outs in training camps and Hofland will be thrown into the deep end at the Tour of Qatar. The powerful Dutchman is still only 24 but has won stages at the Tour of Utah, Paris-Nice and the Tour de Yorkshire in the past.
“I want to be strong immediately in the beginning of the season because that works the best for me,” Hofland explained. “That means that the races in Qatar and Oman, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the Volta Limburg Classic, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Scheldeprijs are immediately important for me. After that period, we’re going to decide if I will ride the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España.”
Vanmarcke underwent surgery on a chronic elbow problem during the winter but is convinced he can again be competitive in the spring Classics. Vanmarcke has often been part of the decisive attacks in the cobbled Classics but lacked support and a fast finish to turn placings into victories.
“The Flemish classics and Paris-Roubaix are of course my biggest targets this season, but I will do Milano-Sanremo and the Amstel Gold Race for the first time. I expect to be able to compete with the best in Milano-Sanremo,” he said. “After the spring Classics, I will support the climbers or possibly a sprinter in the Tour de France. In the last part of the season, there is another clutch of nice races. I’m aiming for good results in Canada, the Eneco Tour and the World Championships in Qatar.”
Robert Gesink is the veteran and often the flag bearer of the team in good and bad times. He made a full recovery from a minor heart problem to finish a little-noted sixth in the 2015 Tour de France. In 2016, he will target the Ardennes Classics, the Tour de France and the Olympic road race, with younger Grand Tour teammate again focusing on the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, while Wilco Kelderman will ride the Tour de France.
“I moved to Spain this winter but I still had a fairly relaxed winter. The coaches gave me a little more space in my training programme this time and everything still went great,” Gesink explained.
“I’ll try to have my first peak of the season during the Tour of Catalonia, the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Ardennes classics. After that period, my preparation for the Tour de France and the Olympic Games starts. Those two races are of course my biggest goals.”
Kruijswijk admitted targeting the Giro and Tour in 2015 was too much for him. The time trials in the Giro d’Italia favour his strengths and he impressed on the mountain stage over the Mortirolo, finishing second in the same time as Alberto Contador.
“I have two goals this season: the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España. I’ve decided to combine those Grand Tours deliberately,” Kruijswijk said.
“When you want to peak for two big tours, you have to chose the Giro and the Vuelta. I already proved that the big tours suit me and I want to grab a good result in two of them in one year for the first time in my career. Training at altitude will be a part of my preparation for both tours so I won’t ride as many races as I did last year.”