Roompot aiming for Tour Down Under invite in 2018

Dutch team benefits from warm weather season start

Dutch Pro Continental outfit Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij has only been on the scene since 2015 but in two short seasons, the 'orange' team has enjoyed numerous wins while also sending talented riders into the WorldTour.

The team made its Australian racing debut at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and Herald Sun Tour at the start of the season. In the team car for the races was Jean-Paul van Poppel, a man well acquainted with Australian racing as a rider and director.

Van Poppel believes starting the year in Australia is "perfect" for his riders, and he hopes to add the Tour Down Under to the schedule in 2018.

"First of all, I think Australia is a big opportunity for racing because the level is always pretty high at the start of the season," he told Cyclingnews. "What we look for is high-level races, and also, it is a fantastic country in which to race. There are a lot of reasons to come here.

"It would be good if we had more races here and even stay here a little bit longer. Actually, it is pretty short and we would love to come a bit earlier or later and do more races," he said. "We are not invited to the Tour Down Under. It could be a dream for us to go there and right after that, do the Cadel Evans race again and Sun Tour.

"Then see if we can maybe bring two more stronger riders like Pieter Weening. He raced with Orica for years and we also have Pim Ligthart. For sure, next year we will have some more surprises and we can bring a mix of very young good talents, and riders who are already there and can make the effort and result."

The Australian block of racing also provided a low-key start to the year for his team, which predominately consists of young Dutch riders aiming to showcase their talents and move into the WorldTour. While the team left Australia empty handed, the likes of Taco van der Hoorn, Martijn Tusveld, and Sjoerd van Ginneken all made their mark on the Sun Tour.

The best example yet of the team's development strategy is Dutch national champion Dylan Groenewegen. The 23-year-old rose to prominence on the squads' books and enjoyed a breakout season with LottoNL-Jumbo last year. He is now considered one of the top young sprinters in the WorldTour.

Last year, Maurits Lammertink (Katusha-Alpecin) and Antwan Tolhoek (also LottoNL-Jumbo) joined Groenewegen in moving into the WorldTour from Roompot's ranks. While Van Poppel explains the raison d'être of the team isn't just rider development, he would welcome the introduction of 'transfer fees' commonly seen in the big football leagues around the world.

"It would be nice to get something back so we can put back into the development of young riders. It doesn't have to be at soccer level but at least what we invest. For us, it is big money but for them it is like peanuts," he said of the WorldTour teams. "For example, if they could pay the salary for when the riders are with us to educate them and development them, we can give the other talent chances.

"We are running on a budget of about three million and the WorldTour minimum is like eight or ten and we also have the same kind of level of staff and the whole organisation is built on that. We can manage but on the other hand, if we can get money back from that to put back into the team it would be really nice and help us a lot."

That financial recompense could well facilitate Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij's Tour Down Under debut in 2018 or even assist in securing a debut Grand Tour start.

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