LottoNL-Jumbo’s GC hopefuls lost time during stage 2 of the Tour de France as the weather caused a battle of echelons and crashes, splitting the peloton and possibly putting an end to the team’s GC ambitions at the Tour. Heading into the day, Jos van Emden was the highest placed rider for the squad in fifth place, followed by Wilco Kelderman in ninth and Robert Gesink just outside the top ten in 11th. André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) was the victor of the day, ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), who now leads the GC after the four-second-time bonus for third place.
“It was a bad day,” Nico Verhoeven said, sports director of the team. “We were proud on top of the classification yesterday, but we took a dive. We had nobody in the first group and that’s bad, especially when you’re having some ambitions in the general classification.”
The chaos ensued after a crash involving Kelderman on a roundabout, shortly after the sprint line in Rotterdam midway through the stage. “Laurens and Tom Leezer were involved in that crash too,” Verhoeven explained. “Three men stopped to wait for them afterwards, but they left our other front man, Robert [Gesink], alone. That’s a mistake. I don’t get the thing that four men waited there. It was with good intentions, for sure, because Wilco is a front man too, but it isn’t clever.”
Laurens ten Dam was involved with Kelderman in the crash, and naturally frustrated at the outcome. “We were in charge [yesterday], but today, it was the other way around. I’m fed up with that. It’s disappointing for Wilco, but for me as well.”
The squad had begun the Tour with several cards to play between Kelderman, Gesink, and ten Dam. The team is now looking to regroup and pull themselves back together for the weeks ahead.
“It was hectic. After the crash, we ended up in no-man’s land,” ten Dam added, “I knew that we were going to lose time at that moment, but we still have three weeks to repair this. Yesterday, we showed that it’s not about our form. We have to put ourselves back together.”
The team found themselves in a déjà vu scenario, remembering the fourth stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia when their teammate, Steven Kruijswijk, lost over eight minutes due to a split in the peloton, chasing in earnest to the finish. Kruijswijk completed the Giro in seventh on GC, after coming in second on the queen stage and wearing the mountains jersey for a day. “Steven Kruijswijk showed the others how to do that in the Giro d’Italia,” added ten Dam. “We have to aim for other targets.”
Kelderman ended losing over five minutes on the stage, now moving into a supporting roll. Meanwhile, Gesink now sits in 29th on GC, 01:59 down from Cancellara and 44 seconds down from Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), the current highest ranked GC contender in the race.
“It was unlucky,” Gesink said, who is now looking to prove in Monday’s stage that all is not lost for the squad. “He was good today and fell out of the leading group because a little bit of bad luck," Verhoeven said. "I expect him to finish with the best tomorrow.”
Stage 3 begins in Anvers Monday, turning the Tour into the Flèche Wallonne for the day, finishing on the brutal Mur de Huy.