George Bennett and Robert Gesink headline LottoNL-Jumbo's eight-man squad at next month's Giro d'Italia. The team also brings Danny van Poppel for the few sprint finishes that litter the mountainous course.
Bennett will be the team's main general classification leader at the Giro d'Italia but Gesink will provide some strong support in the mountains and gives the team a viable second option if things go wrong for the Kiwi.
Bennett's Giro d'Italia almost went up in smoke just over a week ago after he hit a car that had suddenly turned into his path while he was out reconnoitring the stage 16 time trial course ahead of the Tour of the Alps. The 28-year-old miraculously escaped serious injury, despite being flung over the car, but was left with bruising and swelling as a result of the incident.
He still managed a strong week of racing at the Tour of the Alps, finishing fifth overall a minute behind the overall winner Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). His teammate Koen Bouwman, who is also named in the squad, finished the week strong and proved himself a key teammate for Bennett in the mountains.
Gesink's path to the Giro d'Italia has been different to Bennett's as he headed to Belgium for the Ardennes Classics. He missed out on a result but was the team's best finisher at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, coming home more than three minutes down on the winner Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors).
The organisers at the Giro d'Italia have given the sprinters a few scraps to fight for, though they quickly diminish as the race reaches its conclusion. With Dylan Groenewegen securing the sprinter spot for the Tour de France, Van Poppel heads to the Italian race for the first time. It has been two years since the Dutchman has had a chance to test himself at a Grand Tour, with Team Sky choosing not to send him to a single three-week race during his two-year stint with the squad.
Van Poppel's last Grand Tour experience came at the 2015 Vuelta a España where he took a stage victory. He got his LottoNL-Jumbo tenure off to a strong start in February with a win on the opening stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, but has failed to win anything since.
Jos van Emden has also been named in the eight-man team and will be a strong candidate for the two time trials after his victory on the final day of last year's Giro. The first time trial comes on the opening day and, at 9.7km, it offers up the first pink jersey of the race, while the second comes on stage 16 and serves up a longer test of 34.5km.
Completing the LottoNL-Jumbo line-up are Bert-Jan Lindeman, Enrico Battaglin and Gijs van Hoecke.
The Giro d'Italia will begin on Friday, May 4 in Israel before finishing in Rome on Sunday, May 27.
LottoNL-Jumbo for the Giro d'Italia: George Bennett, Robert Gesink, Danny van Poppel, Koen Bouwman, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Jos van Emden, Enrico Battaglin and Gijs van Hoecke.
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