Dutch squad Vacansoleil presented its squad to those assembled in the town of Geertruidenberg last weekend, and the early signs are that it stands a good chance of success in 2009. With names such as Baden Cooke, ex-Skil Shimano rider Clément Lhotellerie and Classics exponents Bobbie Traksel and Björn Leukemans, Vacansoleil has recruited with the aim of taking good results immediately.
The team has been invited to a host of high profile events, which pleases Cooke, whose deal with Rock Racing recently turned sour and forced him to change tack ahead of the 2009 season. It's worked out for the best however, and the team was proud to announce the Australian's arrival at the outfit, saying he's "a great asset".
"I am happy with the team I have found," Cooke said. "With Vacansoleil, we are going to do the Classics, San Remo, probably the Giro and Tirreno-Adriatico. Other than the Tour de France, we are capable of probably doing everything straight away. I know a lot of guys on the team; I think it is going to be one with a lot of good morale."
Hilaire Van der Schueren returns to top-level competition as a member of the team's management crew, something Cooke is upbeat about, given he worked with the astute Belgian at the Unibet.com squad. "I also know Hilaire, the director, so on that side of things I am very happy to be going there. It is a sure thing," he explained.
Clément Lhotellerie was one of the revelations of last season, winning the mountains classification at last year's Paris-Nice and indicating that he has the ability to become a forceful stage racer. The addition of the Frenchman to the roster provides another line of attack during the shorter, early-season stage races such as Étoile des Bessèges, Tour Méditerranéen and Volta oa Algarve, all of which are on the team's programme.
The 2009 Vacansoleil roster: Thijs van Amerongen, Arnoud van Groen, Reinier Honig, Johnny Hoogerland, Gerben Löwik, Wouter Mol, Jens Mouris, Wout Poels, Matthé Pronk, Bobbie Traksel, Aart Vierhouten and Lieuwe Westra (All Netherlands), Wim de Vocht, Frederik Veuchelen and Björn Leukemans (all Belgium), Borut Bozic (Slovenia), Marco Marcato and Matteo Carrara (Italy), Martin Mortensen (Denmark), Clément Lhotellerie (France), Baden Cooke (Australia) andn Sergey Lagutin (Uzbekistan).
Team management: Michel Cornelisse (Netherlands) and Hilaire Van der Schueren (Belgium).
Manager: Daan Luijkx (Netherlands).