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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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A Lotto success: Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
Belgian on track to repeat his top five at the Tour de France
Jurgen Van den Broeck may have become a Tour de France favorite after finishing fifth overall in 2010, but he has had to wait until age 28 and his eighth season as a profession cyclist before winning his first pro bike race.
"This is a relief," said Van den Broeck after winning stage 1 of the Critérium du Dauphiné on the uphill finish of Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse. "It's even more of a relief because this is a mountain stage and it's at the Dauphiné, so it adds some value to what I did."
Van den Broeck reacted to Kanstantsin Sivtsov's attack with seven kilometres to go. "When I heard my directeur sportif saying 'Go', I just went and I've given everything. It wasn't a day to calculate. I've suffered a lot, especially in the last kilometre." The Belgian courageously resisted the chase from Joaquim Rodriguez, who probably waited too long.
Rodriguez crossed the line five seconds after "VDBke" - the little VDB, not to be confused with the late Frank Vandenbroucke - was fuming after the finish. "I've missed the victory by very little," the Spaniard said. "Unfortunately, it's not the first time it happened this year. I've put in a strong performance, but for me, places and podiums are worth nothing here. Only victory counts."
Van den Broeck is exactly the type of rider who has plenty of experience not winning. "I've tried many times before I managed to win today," said the 2001 junior time trial world champion. "I've had a lot of second places, and it didn't please me. Sometimes, I've lacked the foundation."
"This is a great confidence booster for the Tour de France. That remains my true goal. I really needed to win. It doesn't change my status in the team because everyone was going to work for me anyway."
Omega Pharma-Lotto has the firepower to win on different terrain: Philippe Gilbert will target the uphill finishes and Andre Greipel the flat ones.
"The Tour de France is in four weeks from now," said Omega Pharma-Lotto directeur sportif Herman Frison. "This remains Jurgen's main focus. Isn't he on form too early? It's up to us to be good in helping him to maintain this condition. Everything has worked well in the past six weeks. Confidence is here. Now we will continue working while keeping ourselves grounded."