After quietly negotiating the opening half of the Giro d’Italia with considerable poise, the softly-spoken Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) could very well make a big noise in the stage 12 time trial from Barbaresco to Barolo.
Currently lying 7th overall, 1:44 down on Cadel Evans (BMC), Kelderman’s deficit came in two tranches – he lost 54 seconds in the opening team trial in Belfast and another 49 when Evans was the only general classification contender to avoid the mass crash at Montecassino on stage 6.
Though just 24 years of age and in only his second grand tour appearance, the Dutchman has been one of the most consistent performers in this Giro to date, claiming third place on the first full mountain stage to Montecopiolo and looking comfortable in the pink jersey group every time the road tilts upwards. He was again to the fore in Savona on stage 11, taking fourth place in the chase group just behind winner Michael Rogers.
As one of the few general classification contenders with a solid time trialling pedigree, Kelderman now has the opportunity to move up the standings in the Langhe on Thursday afternoon on a 41.9km course that he believes suits his characteristics.
“I think it’s a nice time trial. I hope to do a good time trial and get some time back on some riders ahead of me in general classification but we’ll see,” Kelderman told Cyclingnews in Collecchio on the eve of the time trial.
Kelderman has yet to see the time trial course in person but Belkin’s coaching staff went to the effort of filming a recon from the team car for him as early as last December and he is enthusiastic about the rolling parcours. “I think it’s better for me. I like it more to have a bit more climbing in a time trial, to have it a little bit up and down,” he said.
The youngster was reticent to hazard a guess on the time gaps between the contenders on Thursday, but then his forte does not lie in prediction. As a neo-professional at the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné for instance, he set off for the 54km time trial to Bourg-en-Bresse aiming for a place in the top 30 only to finish in fourth place, ahead of Evans and Chris Froome.
Kelderman’s went on to finish 8th overall at that Dauphiné, a result that signalled his arrival on the world stage. He built on that display with a solid Giro debut twelve months ago. After beginning the race in support of Robert Gesink, he reached Brescia in 17th place on general classification. Tellingly, his best spell of the Giro came in the tough final week.
“I was good in the last week last year – I got in the break one day and I attacked on the Galibier stage too,” he said. “But that was different. Then I could go on the attack and do some other things, but now I’m focused on the GC. But I have confidence in the last week.”
Kelderman is still wearing a bandage on his left forearm following his crash at Montecassino, but he carries the injury as lightly as he does the responsibility of leading the Belkin team. “There is also a lot more pressure this year but I don’t really feel it,” he said. “The team is really relaxed, everything around it is really good, so I don’t feel pressure."
Since the beginning of the Giro, Kelderman’s stated target has been a place in the top ten overall in Trieste, and regardless the outcome of the time trial, that will remain his objective as the race heads towards its crescendo. “The last week is so hard and a lot can happen, so for now the aim is top ten,” he said.
The results sheet might already start to tell a different story in Barolo on Thursday evening, but up to now, the consensus has been that the top riders on general classification at this Giro have been very evenly matched. It’s a situation that Kelderman pictures changing from next Tuesday.
“I think there are five or six guys who are really good right now and you can see it already,” he said. “But the last week is so hard that everything is going to explode I think.”