WorldTour ranking: 9/17
Win count: 7 (down from 23)
Top riders: Robert Gesink (41st), Wilco Kelderman (42nd), Steven Kruijswijk (55th)
Team LottoNL-Jumbo has had their fair share of ups and downs when it comes to title sponsorship. This year marked their third change of titles since long-time sponsor Rabobank left the sport at the end of 2012. The team was known as Blanco as it struggled to find a title sponsor for part of the 2013 season, then swapped to Belkin in the second half of 2013 and 2014, before securing sponsorship from LottoNL-Jumbo this year.
The team lost three strong riders to new teams at the end of last season: Bauke Mollema to Trek Factory Racing, Lars Boom to Astana and Theo Bos to MTN-Qhubeka. Mollema’s departure didn’t leave as big of a void as initially anticipated because Robert Gesink, another formidable Dutch GC rider, stepped up his game and brought the team a sixth overall at the Tour de France in July.
Gesink had a rocky start to the season. Over the winter his partner had serious complications with her pregnancy that had Gesink at her side in the hospital and then he suffered from an early-season knee injury. Despite his trials, Gesink had respectable performances; a fifth overall at the Tour of California and ninth overall at the Tour de Suisse. His proven track record of four times in the top 10 in Grand Tours came to the fore at the Tour de France. He managed to finish a strong fourth place in stage 10 to La Pierre-Saint-Martin, and his sixth place overall made him the top Dutch rider in the race.
As far as Grand Tours go, the equally-as-impressive Steven Kruijswijk had a consistently strong showing in the mountains at the Giro d’Italia. He placed second in two stages; stage 9 from Benevento to San Giorgio del Sannio and stage 16 from Pinzolo to Aprica. He was also fifth in stages 14, 15, 19 and 20, and ended seventh place overall.
The team may not have gotten a victory out of Gesink or Kruijswijk but they did from Moreno Hofland, who took their first win of the season at the Tour de Yorkshire in May. The Dutch sprinter continued with their second win of the season at the Ster ZLM Toer. Wilco Kelderman picked up a victory at the Dutch national championships in the time trial, and he was ninth overall at the Volta Ciclsta a Catalunya and third overall at the Eneco Tour.
Other wins came from Steven Lammertink in the under-23 time trial at the European Championships, Mike Teunissen at the Tour de l’Ain and Jos Van Emden at the Eneco Tour. But the most impressive win came from Bert-Jan Lindeman, who capped off the season with a victory in stage 7 at the Vuelta a Espana.
Seven victories is pretty poor for a WorldTour team and perhaps indicates the transition and downsizing that has taken place in the team. The Grand Tour consistency went some way to make up for the lack of victories but LottoNL-Jumbo's 2015 cannot be considered a success. Forward thinking team manager Richard Plugge will want a lot more in 2016.
What to expect in 2016:
The team will once again rely on the Grand Tour expertise of Gesink and Kruijswijk. Although the Giro d’Italia will start in the Netherlands next year, Gesink hasn’t yet decided if he will place a focus on that or the Tour de France. He has, however, announced that he wants to participate in the Rio Olympic Games, having recently flown to Brasil to check out the course for the road race with some of his compatriots.
If the team could put more support toward riders like Hofland in the sprints and Sep Vanmarcke in the classics, they may be able to bring their victory tally up a notch. Already a proven classics rider, Vanmarcke considered this season full of bad luck, but he still managed to place fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, fourth at Strade Bianche, fifth at E3 Harelbeke, sixth at Gent-Wevelgem and just outside the top 10 at Paris-Roubax. He ended the season with a seventh place at the Sparkassen Munsterland Giro. With a turn of luck, we can definitely expect him on the podium in the Classics next year.
The team looks to be investing in developing talent for 2016 having hired a series of strong riders from the Continental and Professional Continental levels for multiple seasons.
Victor Campenaerts (from Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), was fourth overall at the Ster ZLM Toer, was second overall and won the youth classification at the Tour de Wallonie, and won the Duo Normand time trial. Look for him to be a valuable player in the shorter stage races next year.
Dylan Groenewegen (from Team Roompot) will beef up the team’s Classics and flatter stage race campaigns. He won Arnhem-Veenendaal Classic and Brussels Cycling Classic, was fifth at Handzame Classic, and had top-10 stage finishes at Three Days of De Panne, Tour de Yorkshire, Bayern Rundfahrt, World Ports Classic, Baloise Belgium Tour and Ster ZLM Toer. He's probably the most exciting signing for next year, and he will stay with the team through 2018.
Bardiani-CSF Enrico Battaglin moves over to LottoNL-Jumbo to reinforce links with Italian bike sponsor Bianchi. He won two stages of the Giro d’Italia (2013 and 2014) and this year had two top-five stages finishes at the Italian Grand Tour.
The team also added stage racer from Slovenia, Primoz Roglic, who won the Tour de Slovenie and Tour d’Azerbaidjan and was second overall at the Tour de Croatia and fourth overall at the Tour of Qinghai Lake. He also won the mountain classification at Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali.
The team’s biggest loss was Laurens ten Dam, which was somewhat of a shock considering he had spent nine years with the various versions of LottoNL-Jumbo since 2008. After hoping to move to the USA, the Dutchman made a deal with Giant-Alpecin for 2016 that will see him supporting Tom Dumoulin and Warren Barguil in the major stage races.
One to watch:
Continue to watch Gesink as he attempts to take a step on the podium in the Grand Tours. The closest he ever came to the podium in a Grand Tour was a fourth place overall at the Tour de France in 2010. If the stars align for Gesink, and he has a consistent winter of training and early-season racing, and with luck on his side, we think he could have what it takes to do it this year.
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