Belgian riders Jurgen Van den Broeck and Jelle Vanendert from the Lotto-Belisol team didn't hide their ambition for the upcoming three weeks of the Tour de France. During the Lotto-Belisol press conference on Friday afternoon, Van den Broeck stated he was ready to seize his moments to be in the mix for the podium in Paris. Vanendert said he hoped to receive the go ahead to chase a stage win.
Jurgen Van den Broeck has high ambitions for the general classification. Back in 2010, he showed off his talent by finishing fifth, later moving up to fourth after the positive clenbuterol test from winner Alberto Contador. Last year, the Belgian was on course to be in the mix for the podium until a massive crash in the descent of the Col de Pas de Peyrol during stage 10 to Saint-Flour took him out of the race.
"I'm not as nervous as last year. I learned from that crash that it can soon be over. I did the maximum, I couldn't do more. I lived for it and trained for it so I know that I'm ready. If it doesn't work out then I can't blame myself, if it does work out then that's fantastic.
What's 'it'? A nice goal, a nice result. The podium?
"I don't have to hide that this would be the best outcome, if not then that's a stage win. From third to tenth place anything is possible and even the first two are not certain because also they can have a bad day," Van den Broeck said.
This year Van den Broeck arrives in perfect shape to the start of the Tour de France which kicks off in his home country Belgium. After last year's crash, tackling tricky descents turned out to be a tough task on the mental front and that might be one of his weakest points. In contrast to that are his climbing skills and his improvement on the time trial bike.
"The difference can be made anywhere. During the first week there're the stages where the wind is dangerous. You can't win but you can lose. Then there're the tough stages in the Vosges or the Jura. Then there's the time trial and then there's already the Alps. Really, it can happen everywhere and if you have the chance you have to take time because Evans and Wiggins are the better riders in the time trial. So you have to try and take advantage of that in the mountains. The first time trial will show where everybody is but then there're still the Alps and the Pyrenees to come so it will not be decided by then," Van den Broeck said.
In contrast to the Sky team with top favourite Bradley Wiggins, the Lotto-Belisol team opted to include three riders who need to work for the team's sprinter André Greipel. Van den Broeck was quick to add that it wouldn't be a one-way street.
"The difference is that even a man like André will do his work in my stages and there're not a lot of sprinters who do that," Van den Broeck said.
One of the men who'll be working for Van den Broeck is Jelle Vanendert. Last year he showed with his stage win on the Plateau de Beille that he can target specific tough uphill finishes.
"I hope to battle along for a stage win again this year. Then I would prove that I'm in the mix again. In contrast to last year I will not ride totally in support as I'll receive my chances," Vanendert said.
The lieutenant for Van den Broeck checked out the stages in the Pyrenees together with his compatriot for five days.
"There were a few unknown factors, while the Alps didn't have many secrets for me. Also the climb of La Planche des Belles Filles was new to me. Already on Sunday in Seraing I hope to get a good result but the peloton will still be fresh and the sprinters will probably still be there in the finale. Much depends on what happens with Jurgen but I am also targeting La Planche des Belles Filles [stage 7] and the one to La Toussuire [stage 11]. The first one suits me because it's a really steep climb and the second because it's a really tough stage," Vanendert told Cyclingnews.
On Saturday afternoon Van den Broeck's race gets underway at 17:06 local time, which is one minute before top favourite Bradley Wiggins. When asked about his ambitions for the prologue VDB made clear he didn't want to focus on a result or a certain time loss over the top favourites.
"The result is unimportant as only the time matters. I will not talk about a successful prologue, only about a successful Tour," a clearly focused Van den Broeck said, pointing out that a disappointing prologue result wouldn't keep him from eying the podium in Paris.