After seven years in the same team, rising through the Rabobank Continental set-up and then joining the pro team known currently as LottoNL-Jumbo, Moreno Hofland is swapping Lottos and making the move across the Dutch-Belgian border to join Lotto Soudal for 2017.
2016 was a disappointing season for the Dutch fast-man – the only one that has not yielded a victory since he turned pro in 2012.
Sitting down with Cyclingnews last week at Lotto Soudal's first winter training camp, the 25-year-old explained where things went wrong and discussed what's on the horizon in 2017 and beyond.
Cyclingnews: What are your first impressions of the new team?
Moreno Hofland: It feels really good already. I've only been here for six days and I have the feeling already of knowing the guys a lot longer. So that's a good sign.
CN: Is it fair to class 2016 as a big disappointment?
MH: Last year was not the best year for me. I struggled a bit at the start with the sprint project we had – we mixed up the team a bit. I really like to work with Robert Wagner, but he had to have surgery. We were supposed to do a lot of the same races but because of that he did an easier programme and ended up racing a lot with Dylan Groenewegen. Dylan won a lot of races, and I didn't. So they stayed together. That's why things didn't go as planned.
CN: So you didn't get the support you needed?
MH: They wanted to make two sprint trains with the riders we had left, but we didn't have the guys to do two good leadout trains.
We changed too much and I didn't feel confident with the guys around me. Back then Tom van Asbroek was my leadout man, but he also wanted to sprint for himself. The plan was there, but we lacked experience, and after that also the confidence in each other, and everything went downhill.
CN: Are you unhappy about how things played out?
MH: For me it was a shame, but they didn't want to change the winning formula. I can't blame them for that. I'd have done the same.
CN: When did you decide to move on?
MH: After the Classics I spoke with the team and said, ‘I need something to be changed, because this is not working'. They changed my programme and I did the things I did well before, harder races, more selective sprints, to gain some confidence again, because my confidence was not so good. I felt strong in Romandie, then did Giro and felt strong in the early sprints. Things did start to come back but I was already thinking about my future as it was the last year of my contract. I still liked the team and the people but I felt I wanted to change something. I was ready for something new after seven years with the same team – three years with the development team then four years with the pros.
Dylan was riding well so all the guys I liked were working with him. Also a lot of guys were leaving, and next year I wouldn't know which guys I'd be with for the sprints, so maybe I wasn't confident that things would improve in 2017. So I knew I needed something else. I could have stayed but after the Dutch championships [in June –ed] I had already made up my mind I wanted to leave.
CN: What attracted you to Lotto Soudal?
MH: The reason I really like this team, is that they have a really good plan with me. I can do my own thing in the smaller races – they still have confidence in me to bring in victories. Also, I can do the Classics again – that's a thing I couldn't really do with LottoNL-Jumbo. These guys always have lots of guys in the important moves in the Classics, and that's the kind of racing I like. Of course I want to learn a lot from Andre Greipel. Maybe I'll work with him in the sprint train, and I'm excited to be a part of that.
CN: So, going forward, you see yourself as more of an all-rounder than a pure sprinter?
MH: Last year was the plan to not focus on the classics, but to focus on the sprints. It was ok – that was the project they had for me, and Flanders and Roubaix were never part of the plan this year. But I was second at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 2104, so that and Gent-Wevelgem are the kind of races suit me and I want to show I can do well there.
MH: I'm still a young rider and I have to pick it up soon. For that type of race you can't wait too long because parcours knowledge is so important.
CN: How much of a role will you play for Greipel?
MH: I'm not sure yet. The sprint train is something I see as an opportunity to become a better rider. To get more knowledge of it, of how it feels for other riders. Maybe I'll be really good at it – you never know.
CN: Where will you slot into the train?
MH: I don't know the number or the place. I don't have a particular place I want to be. We have to work on that in training in January, but the best way to try things is in a race. Me and Greipel will both do [Challenge] Mallorca I think so after that we'll see how it goes and discuss things.