Jurgen Van den Broeck hardly had the opportunity last year to prove his Tour de France potential and improve on his result of the 2010 edition. The Lotto-Belisol rider crashed on the descent of Col du Perthus during stage nine in last year’s Tour and while he quickly remounted, he soon found himself back on the side of the road unable to ride any further.
This year’s race saw abandonment for a number of general classification contenders but this time Van den Broeck wasn't one of them. He rode into Paris with his second fourth-place overall, his most recent finish being in 2010 when he finished the race in fifth and was elevated to fourth following Alberto Contendor’s stripped title.
"I finish just next to the podium and I have achieved that result by making the race and attacking. Two years ago I had to limit myself to following, now I took a new step in my development. This is more beautiful than then, because I'm one place higher in the GC and have made the race," he said on his team site.
Van Den Broeck experienced his share of bad luck in this year’s edition but unlike last year, it didn’t rule him out of the race completely. Lotto’s general classification leader suffered a mechanical leading up to the final climb of stage nine but he remained calm and promptly began his chase. He had Australian teammate and former national time trial champion Adam Hansen on hand to try and regain contact with the peloton.
"That I have never panicked is definitely a step forward with regard to the past. Mental coaching has changed my way of thinking and I’m now much calmer. Negative energy doesn't yield anything, dwelling on mistakes or things that go wrong doesn't help you during the Tour."
His teammate’s effort to get him back in contention for the stage were spirited but ultimately the peloton was moving too quickly and the distance before the climb came too soon. He started the final ascent in ‘chase mode’ and he lost time to eventual stage winner Chris Froome (Sky) and most of the other GC riders. He nonetheless praised his team and the huge work load they took on board.
"Guys like [Lars] Bak and [Adam] Hansen lead me each time in a favourable position, I feel very comfortable following their wheels. They don't give themselves 100, but 120 percent," he said. "We came to the Tour with a very strong team, that has functioned perfectly. When you see how [Andre] Greipel rode on the Tourmalet, collecting bottles for us and rode past the whole peloton to bring them to the front that demonstrated his class."
Van den Broeck knows that he’ll need to work hard over the coming year if he is to improve on his results from 2012 but with the Vuelta a España next on the agenda, his Tour preparation for 2013 will have to wait.
"My time trialling will never be super, that‘s my nature but I should be able to control the damage as much as possible. The fact I was a juniour world champion for the time trial but that doesn’t count for much. I have always said that everyone starts from scratch with the pros."
Following his attempt at the Vuelta, Van den Broeck hopes to be selected for the Belgian national team at the world championships. That is, if he can recover from the Tour and come out of the Vuelta in the physical and mental shape require to contest the gruelling one-day race.
"A few years ago I had never thought I could do this once, let alone two times. A podium place in the Tour would really accomplish my career. The next Tour indeed is already in my head. I also hear the rumors there should be more climbing. But I will never keep on racing till I'm forty like Jens Voigt."