At 32, Jurgen Van Den Broeck is going back to his Grand Tour roots. Or as the Belgian put it on Thursday as the countdown to the Giro d’Italia started, “I’m going back to the race where it all started.”
Rewind seven years and in 2008, Van Den Broeck took a breakthrough seventh place overall in the 2008 Giro d’Italia, a result which set him on the road to racking up a series of top ten and top five places in Grand Tours. He remains, in fact, Belgium’s most successful GC GrandTour racer in the last two decades.
Since then, the former junior World Time Trial champion has taken two top five places in the Tour de France, in 2012 and 2010, as well as crashing out in 2011 and 2013. In 2014, after a promising third place in the Critérium du Dauphiné, another series of early crashes in the Tour left the Belgian playing catchup, and he finished 13th overall.
After the Vuelta a España ended with an abandon, the decision was taken that Van Den Broeck should not race the Tour de France in 2015. Because, as Lotto Soudal manager Marc Sergeant tells Cyclingnews, “you know in Belgium, the story between Van Den Broeck and the Tour was extreme.”
“His heart is still in the Tour. But he understood what I meant [about not racing in July] and at the end for 2015 I let him choose: what do you want to do? The Giro or the Vuelta? Both?”
“And he said ‘ok, let’s do the Giro, then maybe the Vuelta…he is very happy with that, he’s very relaxed here. You can see that compared with the Tour, he’s a different guy.”
With André Greipel the team’s other main leader for the race, Van Den Broeck will not be subject to all the pressure. Vn Den Broeck, looking relaxed and in good shape at the team press conference on Thursday, said the initial aim in the Giro “is “to go for the top ten. We’ll see from the day to day. There’s a group of big favourites for the top three overall, then from the fourth or fifth place downwards, a lot of possible contenders.”
"If he gets the feeling, that ‘ok, I’m counting again’ inside the top ten or maybe in the top seven in the first big stages, then his confidence will grow again,” reasons Sergeant. “Already in the Tour of Romandie, his time trial [finishing fourth] was one of the best I ever saw. And now with the Giro coming up so soon afterwards, that’s a good sign.”
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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