Stronger Vacansoleil ready for second year in WorldTour

Vacansoleil-DCM is ready for its second year in the top ranks, having strengthened its core with 11 new riders. With two-year commitments from new bike sponsor Bianchi and title sponsors Vacansoleil and DCM to go along with its two-year WorldTour licence, the Dutch team is ready to take on the future.

The team presented its 2012 squad Tuesday in Maastricht, Netherlands – not at all far from this year's World Championship course, which many of the riders already have their eye on.

“We have invested in the core of the team,” general manager Daan Luijkx said. “The last few years the team showed it has a lot of riders who can get results and every year young talents break through. We will focus on developing our core and our young riders, while we stay accessible and attractive.”

The team's best known rider from last year's Tour de France is Johnny Hoogerland. He is eager to put the barbed wire episode behind him, saying that his time in the King of the Mountain's dotted jersey at that race was his season highlight.

The 28-year-old didn't have any wins last season but is determined to change that this year, with his focus fixed first of all on the Spring Classics. “My role in this team is to be around in the finale of the races. This can lead to chances for myself or teammates. For myself I look to Amstel Gold and the Worlds, which are both only a stone's throw away from here.”

Stijn Devolder's first season with the team last year didn't go at all as hoped, but, the Belgian said, “I start to know the Dutchies and I start liking it more and more. The fact that the sport directors and Daan Luijkx told me they keep confidence in me is a great motivation.”

One of the team's newcomers is Swedish time trial specialist Gustav Erik Larsson. Being with the Dutch team “gives me a great opportunity to do what I want,” he said.  “It will be a tough year, a hard year, but that's why we do it.”

Larsson also has the Olympics in his sights. After finishing second in the Beijing Olympic Games, only 33 seconds behind winner Fabian Cancellara, he said that “someday I will have to take revenge. I have already been there and checked out the parcours. It is a very nice parcours actually, a few ups and downs.”

The team's only French rider, Romain Feillu, has big dreams for the year. It starts with winning the French road championship. “It is my dream to wear the French national jersey in the Tour de France. Wearing the national jersey in the Tour is like having July 14 every day.” From there, he wants to top the national jersey with the Tour's green jersey, and also ride in the Olympic games.

Kenny Van Hummel has moved over from Skil-Shimano and is excited to make his WorldTour team debut.  “This team is a new adventure and I am excited to race the Tour Down Under,” he said. “It is exciting to be in a team which is among the 18 biggest in the world.”

The team's sport directors echoed the riders' sentiments. According to Jean-Paul van Poppel, “We race with fun and aggression and keep professionalizing the team and staff.” Michel Cornelisse said he was “proud to be part of this project. We grow every year and if I look at the team and progress of some riders, I believe we will do so again in 2012.”

And Hilaire Van Der Schueren summed up the season planning by saying, “we aim for a top ten in a grand tour, a top three in one of the monuments, and a victory in at least one WorldTour race.”

Bianchi for 2012

The team will be riding Bianchi Oltre bikes this year, a carbon monococque bike which the Italian manufacturer calls “one of the best racing machines Bianchi has ever made.” The  bike supplier was out in full force at the team presentation, with their ties in the same traditional “celeste” blue-green as the bikes.

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