Jurgen Van den Broeck had reason to smile after Sunday's last stage of the Volta ao Algarve, a 25.8km time trial from Lagoa to Portimão. The Belgian completed the course only 29 seconds slower than the winner Bradley Wiggins (Sky), finishing in sixth position. The Lotto-Belisol Tour de France hope was relieved to see that the specific time trialling work he did over the winter bore fruit.
"I'm overjoyed. This was my best time trial in years," Van Den Broeck told Sporza.
The climber has worked hard to improve his abilities against the clock, which are his main obstacle in view of a Grand Tour success. Van Den Broeck had to abandon last year's Tour de France, but his performance at the Dauphiné time trial in Grenoble - on the same route that was used later at the Tour - saw him lose 2.28 minutes on Wiggins on a 42.5km course. He has greatly improved his skills since last year, a fact he also attributed to a bike change.
"It's very pleasant that the work I've done in the winter is paying off," he continued. "I felt that I had more power in my legs. I think it's also got to do with my bike."
But Lotto-Belisol not only put a new bike at Van Den Broeck's disposal, also a new mechanic: Chris Van Roosbroeck, who has worked for seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong during his time. "He's given me a lot of clues already. We've worked hard on my position because this time trial was so important. Now that I've got Armstrong's mechanic, perhaps he'll also give me Armstrong's legs..."