LottoNL-Jumbo have been forced to rethink their strategy for Tirreno-Adriatico after Robert Gesink opted to stay at home with his sick son. Gesink pulled out of his first race of the season the Volta ao Algarve two weeks ago - ahead of stage 3 - due to his son’s illness and has been at home since then.
"I'm glad my son Bram will leave the hospital today. The last couple of weeks, I was only concerned about my family. That's why I won’t be able to reach my desired level in Tirreno-Adriatico," Gesink said in a team press release. "I made a false start in the Tour of Algarve and I didn’t gain the intensity I wanted. Now, with Bram back at home, I don’t have to worry that much anymore and I can focus on bike riding again. I’m going to prepare myself for the Tour of the Basque Country via other races."
Gesink’s partner endured a challenging pregnancy with their son, undergoing two surgeries in September before finally giving birth. The Dutchman abandoned the Vuelta a España to be by her side during that time. Medically, the last 12 months have been difficult for Gesink also. A stress-induced heart arrhythmia forced him to pull out of competition early in 2014 before having surgery in May.
Gesink was meant to lead the team at the seven-day Italian race but the team has been forced to switch their focus to the bunch sprint with Tom Van Asbroeck in his absence. "We have other plans," said directeur sportif Erik Dekker. "Our goal was top ten with Robert, but that’s going to be difficult now.
"However, we are flexible and we’ll start the race with new ambitions. With Tom Van Asbroeck we aim to be in the sprints. Winning is going to be hard with Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan, but to get in the mix for a third or fourth place is a good goal."
Van Asbroeck joined the team at the start of this season after a very successful 2014 and Tirreno-Adriatico will be his first WorldTour race. The young Belgian has had a good start to the year with a second place on the final stage of the Volta ao Algarve and fourth at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne last weekend.
"Last weekend was pretty good, although winning is better, of course. My fourth place felt a bit like a consolation prize," said Van Asbroeck. “It’s my first time (at a WorldTour race), a whole new world is opening up for me. The level of racing will be very high with all the top sprinters involved. It’s going to be a good opportunity to learn new things and become stronger."
LottoNL-Jumbo are also looking a little nearer into the future and Strade Bianche on Saturday. Five of their number will make the stop-off for the one-day race before linking up with the remainder of the team for Tirreno next Wednesday. Sep Vanmarcke will be the leader on Saturday as he continues his build-up to the Classics.
LottoNL-Jumbo for Strade Bianche: Rick Flens, Paul Martens, Sep Vanmarcke, Robert Wagner and Kevin De Weert.
LottoNL-Jumbo for Tirreno-Adriatico: Tom Van Asbroeck, Laurens ten Dam, Rick Flens, Tom Leezer, Paul Martens, Sep Vanmarcke, Robert Wagner and Kevin De Weert.