Van Den Broeck is among the many riders who are reconnoitering the Tour de France stages early this week, before riding the Critérium du Dauphiné. The Belgian will use the week-long stage race as preparation for the Tour, if the team are happy with his performance.
"If his Dauphiné is bad, then it makes no sense that we send him to the Tour,” director sportif Herman Frison told Het Nieuwsblad. “We do not want to punish him, but to protect him. If he starts the Tour then there will be expectations from him, us and the public. It would not be fair to send him if we know that he cannot meet those expectations. For clarity, Jurgen fully supports our decision."
Van Den Broeck has twice finished fourth in the general classification at the Tour de France and was hoping to finally make the podium this season. However, the previous 12 months have been fractured for Van Den Broeck, with a recurring knee problem disrupting his racing schedule.
He first injured the knee at the Tour de France in 2013, which put him out of the remainder of the season. The Belgian began this season at the Tour de San Luis and looked like he was getting back on track, before he crashed and injured the same knee at Tirreno-Adriatico. While he escaped serious injury, it has meant more time off the bike than he or the team would like.
The team aren’t putting too much pressure on Van Den Broeck, with regards to the end result at the Dauphiné, but they hope to get a better idea as to his form. “We do not expect that he will win the Dauphiné,” said Frison.
“We just want him to get better. But what if he was shattered after two days and had to leave, then it is clear that he can’t do anything at the Tour. Then we will try to strengthen our train for (André) Greipel.
Despite the ominous message about his spot in the Tour team, Lotto-Belisol remain confident that their team leader can find the form necessary to make the start in Leeds.
"I only get positive signals from the Sierra Nevada. Mentally he is once again firmly in his shoes. The problem is and remains his knee,” Frison explained. “He had never been so heavily injured, he has never had to rehabilitate so much. Maybe he paid the price during the classics, but all that work will sooner or later pay off, I'm sure.”