Belkin got off to a good start Monday at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, controlling the first stage throughout the day and setting up 22-year-old Moreno Hofland for the win in his first race since crashing out of the Tour of California in May.
But the team's hopes for the overall rest on the shoulders of another young rider, 23-year-old Wilco Kelderman, who finished seventh overall in the Giro d'Italia in May. Kelderman has been resting since June and is gearing up for his first run at the Vuelta a España later this month.
The Dutch rider has a history of riding well in August, having won the 2.HC Tour of Denmark about this time last year, but he told Cyclingnews on Monday after stage 1 that he's not sure how his legs will react to the racing in Utah.
"We already spent two-and-a-half-weeks here, so normally it should be good," he said. "But of course the Vuelta is going to be the big goal. This is a really hard stage race, so I hope to be good in the hard stages. We trained not really hard, but really long. Normally I need some race rhythm, so we'll see in the hard stages how good I am. Hopefully I'm good enough to win."
Kelderman previously raced the 2012 edition of the Utah tour, finishing 18th overall and fourth in the competition for best young rider. The rising Dutch star said he is familiar with two of the iconic climbs in the race, the ascent to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort during the Queen Stage on the penultimate day, and the Empire Pass climb during the final stage.
This year's summit finish on Powder Mountain during stage 4 will be a new challenge, but Kelderman said the harder the race is, the better it will be for his overall chances, and it will also provide better training for the Vuelta.
"It's a hard race, and it's good preparation for the Vuelta," he said. "It's also at altitude, so it's really good for us."
Belkin and the team hope Kelderman can parlay the training in Utah into a top performance at the Vuelta, as 2013 winner Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) did last year.
"I hope to be for sure in the top 10 [at the Vuelta]," Kelderman said. "And maybe I will go for a stage win or something."
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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