Dutch team head to Vuelta a Espana
Although they’ve captured 11 victories on the road this season, by far the biggest success Skil Shimano have managed is an invitation to the Vuelta a Espana.
Having been in the grand tour wilderness since the 2009 Tour de France, this year’s Vuelta will see general manager Iwan Spekenbrink’s team take on the biggest teams in the WorldTour over three weeks.
Skil, a pro continental outfit, pride themselves on a philosophy of clean sport and rider development, and according to Spekenbrink it was these credentials that helped win over the Vuelta organisers.
“From their point of view our project is interesting, firstly from a sporting level but also our philosophy around the team and the future of it. They know our team, we’re not new, and they know how we’ve been programmed and that we’re a solid base,” he told Cyclingnews.
“You can look short term or long term but I believe when your principles are right in cycling then good things will happen. Of course we were disappointed last year when we couldn’t ride the Tour de France but we saw it coming and we respected the decision. However, we knew that in the long term that we were travelling along the right path and that it would be rewarded.”
Skil’s reputation for signing young, promising riders has seen a number of athletes develop within the framework on offer at the Dutch team. Kenny Van Hummel and Marcel Kittel have both won several races this season and although the team lacks a big named rider they look at giving everyone his chance.
“We put a lot of effort into the support of riders and their development. So it’s not about just buying a rider, we want to create our own pool of talent that match our philosophy and ethics and that’s most important.”
“We’re very strict on ethics and we have very clear lines. We want to stick with that line. Sometime, yes, we’re tempted to go out and buy a big rider but I really believe that on our team we have the next big rider with Kittel and Alexandre Geniez. We want to create the new stars and of course keep them.”
“Together with the riders we have a common purpose to improve each athlete and the team. We do sign riders of course, and we’re always looking, though."
With the Vuelta still months away and the final line up far from settled, Spekenbrink admits that Skil’s best to chance for success at the race will come through breaks and opportunistic attacks, and that while Geniez has the pedigree to become a stage race contender in the future, he will race the Vuelta without such pressure.
“The best chances we have are in stages wins and that’s just us being realistic. I think we have a potential GC rider but it’s not justified to put that sort of pressure on him and I’m referring to Alexandre. I think for him, he’s in the process of developing and he shouldn’t think about GC. For him it’s going to be about seeing what a grand tour is like and taking his chances as they come. Maybe he’ll surprise us, but he’s young and we’re assuming he’s riding the Vuelta of course.”