Jurgen Van Den Broeck will close his 2010 season on Saturday at the Giro di Lombardia, but the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider has revealed that he has already started work to improve his chances of a high finish at this year's Tour de France.
This year Van Den Broeck finished fifth overall at the Tour de France after dedicating his season to the event. The result made him the first Belgian since Claude Criquielion in 1986 to finish inside the top-five and was also the first top-ten result by a Belgian since Axel Merckx in 1998. He told Het Nieuwsblad that next year he will dedicate his season to the French race.
"I'll have tests to improve my position on the time trial bike. There is still progression to be made. I think I can improve tactically, uphill and against the clock," he said. "I think that I will race a similar program to this year. Starting with the Ruta del Sol and then Paris-Nice."
His final position at the 2010 Tour could improve by one spot should Alberto Contador be stripped of his title as a result of his positive test for Clenbuterol. Van Den Broeck refused to comment on the controversy swirling around the Spaniard, instead preferring to focus on his own ambitions for 2011.
"I won't speak about Alberto Contador. Sorry. I am not a scientist. I do not know what happened. Next year I'm again going for the top-ten," he said. "If it turns out that my fifth place this year was the best result possible, then so be it. I'll have nothing to reproach myself. "
His performance at the Tour reinforced his reputation as Belgium's best Tour hope in a cycling nation whose attention is traditionally fixated on the Spring Classics. The 27-year-old had already proven his stage race ability with seventh overall at the Giro in 2008 and 14th place at the 2009 Tour de France, the latter saving his team's blushes after then-teammate Cadel Evans faltered at the race. This year he entered the race as team leader and admitted that the increased attention had taken time to adjust to.
"Everything is magnified in the Tour. By nature I am a very quiet boy, but at the Tour there is a constant demand," he said. "A winner of the Classics in this respect has something simpler. He wins, does his press conference and bolts home. [At the Tour] the cameras are there three weeks long. That press coverage was all a bit new to me too. I felt uneasy with it."
Van Den Broeck said he is happy to split the weight of Belgian expectation throughout the season with his team's Classics leader Philippe Gilbert, who yesterday defended his title at the Giro del Piemonte. Van Den Broeck will ride in support of Gilbert on Saturday as he aims for successive wins at Lombardy.
"Cycling is more than the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Such a Tour de France is basically a three-week Tour of Flanders. In a country that swears by the Northern Classics, I am happy that there so much attention for my fifth place at the Tour.
With wholesale roster changes sweeping through the Omega Pharma-Lotto set-up for 2011 Van Den Broeck is confident the team's management will provide ample support for him at next year's Tour. In 2011, he will be without Spaniard Daniel Moreno, who has left the team after one season, but he says he has faith in the recruitment decisions made by the squad.
"There were enough riders attracted to the team; Oscar Pujol, Jurgen Van De Walle and Frederick William...My manager will work with Omega Pharma-Lotto this winter on the job of brokering my contract after 2011. There is mutual trust."
Van Den Broeck confirmed he will attend the presentation of the 2011 Tour de France in Paris on Tuesday next week before heading away on holidays.