At the beginning of the year Lotto Belisol’s sports director Mark Sergeant discussed the team’s major goal for the year: to win a stage in each of the grand tours. The Belgian-based team has so far lived up to management’s expectations with Lars Bak winning at the Giro d’Italia and André Greipel taking three stages at the Tour de France.
Sergeant discussed some of the riders roles ahead of the start in Pamplona on Saturday and outlined a number of key members for the race. It’s a very different team that was taken to the Tour however, the team is heading to Spain with the same goals taken to each grand tour - albeit with a little less pressure.
"Before the start of the season one of our goals was to win a stage in each of the three grand tours. In the Giro Lars Bak succeeded and in the Tour, we grabbed three victories with André Greipel," Sergeant said on the the Lotto team site.
Coming into the final grand tour of the year, Sergeant has stated that the nine-man team has been specifically chosen to round-out the year on a high and win a fourth grand tour stage of the season. As recently announced, Van Den Broeck will lead the team’s general classification ambitions but it may take until the final week before his ability to contend with the very best is revealed.
"Jurgen Van den Broeck leads our troops, though he’s starting this race in different condition to the Tour. Jurgen prepared meticulously for the Tour and this has not been possible for the Vuelta, both physically and mentally. He will contend for a stage win and if it appears that after two weeks he remains in the general classification, we can adjust our goals," Sergeant said.
Gianni Meersman arrives at the Vuelta after an impressive third-place finish at the recent San Sebastian Classic. Meersman will be targeting stages that have a particularly difficult finish - where he excels. He showed great resolved at San Sebastian when he was dropped on the final Jaizikbel climb of the day and managed to chase back on the decent before taking coming third behind Australia’s Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge).
Going against the current trend, Adam Hansen will line up in his third grand tour of the year and Sergeant is confident in the Australian’s condition to back-up for another three weeks of racing.
"Adam Hansen will ride his third major tour of the year which in today's cycling hardly occurs. Adam is someone who has a big engine and does not suffer from long outside the home. He urged himself to be allowed to ride [the Tour] and emerged as one of the riders Jurgen Van den Broeck has come to rely upon and trust," Sergeant said.
Bart De Clerq is returning from injury at the Tour de Suisse where despite suffering a collapsed lung, managed to finish 12th overall. His performance at last year’s Giro showed he has the potential to be a solid domestique for Van Den Broeck when the race hits the mountains.
"Bart De Clercq is coming back after his collapsed lung again in competition. He has been out for some time but showed especially in the Giro last year that he is good uphill," Sergeant said on the Lotto team site.