Vacansoleil and Skil-Shimano were racing for more than good results in Paris-Nice. The two Dutch Professional Continental teams were hoping to impress the race organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), in hope of wildcard invitations to another race organised by the group, the Tour de France. That race opens in the Netherlands this year.
Neither team was able to take a stage win, but both brought in top ten finishes in the early stages. The overall rankings at the end of the race showed that Skil-Shimano's highest finisher was Thierry Hupond in 44th, while Johnny Hoogerland in 82nd was the best for Vacansoleil.
Instead of stage wins, the Dutch teams looked to prove themselves in breakaways, which they did throughout the race. Both teams were represented in the day's escapes on days one, two and four. Skil carried the honours on stages three and six.
Team manager Iwan Spekenbrink was pleased with his Skil-Shimano riders' performance. “It was an important race for us, and our riders were in good physical shape and really wanted to ride,” he said on the team's website.
“All of our riders attacked in almost every stage and showed a high level of performance,” he added. We hoped, of course, that it would result in a stage win, but unfortunately we didn’t succeed.”
Spekenbrink concluded that although the team came to the race without a rider for the overall, “we have done well to show our depth. We are one step further than last year.”
So far this season, his team has one victory, with a total of four podium placings. Robert Wagner has brought in a stage win in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, and a runners-up spot, while Dominique Cornu and Tom Veelers providing each have a third-place stage finish.
Vacansoleil may not have done as well in Paris-Nice, but has otherwise had an outstanding season. Wouter Mol was the overall winner of the Tour of Qatar, and Bobbie Traksel took Kuurne-Brüssel-Kuurne. In addition, Borut Bozic won two stages of the Etoile de Besseges.
As for Paris-Nice, team manager Daan Luijkx said, “Some things you simply cannot control. Johnny Hoogerland was involved in three crashes, Borut Bozic had to go home sick halfway through.” He also acknowledged that the Feillu brothers are not yet in top form.
Skil-Shimano made its Grand Tour debut last summer, when it received a wild-card to the Tour de France. Vacansoleil rode the Vuelta a Espana, which also opened in the Netherlands.