Lotto Soudal have had mixed fortunes with the Tour de France: in the two years since Jurgen Van den Broeck's fourth place overall in the 2012 Tour de France, aiming for general classification has not been fruitful for the Belgian team. This year the team heads to Utrecht with only stage victories as their aim, with sprinter André Greipel the main focus.
"We've had great years with Jurgen Van den Broeck, but we have also had some bad luck," team manager Marc Sergeant said, according to Het Nieuwsblad. Van den Broeck crashed in the 2013 Tour, seriously injuring his knee, and last year fought through the race to 13th place overall after injuring the same knee again earlier in the year. This season he raced the Giro d'Italia, leaving the team to try to repeat their success of 2014, where Tony Gallopin won a stage and wore the maillot jaune, and Greipel won a stage.
"Last year taught us that by approaching the Tour in a different way, guys who are used to riding as domestiques suddenly can win. This year, André Greipel is our man for the bunch sprints, and in addition we have a lot of freelancers in the squad. I aim to get at least one stage victory in the Tour."
Greipel has won a stage in every Grand Tour he has started since 2008, including the past four Tours with Lotto, and picked up a stage in the Giro last month. Sergeant expects no less from the German in July. "This year there are not so many sprint opportunities," Sergeant said. "But it is our ambition to win a stage with Andre for sure."
Directeur sportif Herman Frison is aiming to get the stage win early. "Sunday in the ride to Neeltje Jans, the second stage of the Tour, I see opportunities in a mass sprint. It would be good if we quickly grab a victory. That takes the pressure off."
Without having to support a GC contender in the mountains, Greipel will have his full sprint train at his disposal, with Greg Henderson, Marcel Sieberg and Jens Debusschere, who makes his debut in the Tour. "He takes over the role of Jürgen Roelandts in the sprint train. And if necessary, he can also take his own chance," Frison said.
Debusschere was fifth in Gent-Wevelgem and ninth in Paris-Roubaix, and could eye the cobbled stage to Cambrai.
Tony Gallopin returns to the Tour after establishing himself as a star in his home country for taking the maillot jaune last year, and he will have more freedom to go for a stage win or sneak into the jersey again. Tim Wellens, Thomas De Gendt, Adam Hansen and Lars Bak could also go for stage wins, Sergeant said. "Besides debutante Tim Wellens, they have in the past, proven to be able to win a stage in one or more Grand Tours. "
Selection: Lars Bak, Thomas De Gendt, Jens Debusschere, Tony Gallopin, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson, Marcel Sieberg and Tim Wellens.
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