Belgium's Jurgen Van Goolen has expressed his disappointment with Omega Pharma-Lotto's decision not to extend his current one-year contract with the team. With the start of the 2011 season now less than six weeks away, the 29-year-old domestique faces a difficult search for a new team.
"It's unfortunate, especially given my level in the final month of the season and I completely sacrificed myself for the team," Van Goolen told Het Laatste Nieuws. "The first half of the year didn't go well. I was struggling with a hernia and it took me a long time to get back into good form."
Van Goolen is one of the more experienced domestiques in the peloton, having ridden for Quick Step, Discovery Channel and Team CSC during his nine-year professional career. He joined Omega Pharma-Lotto at the start of 2010 on a one-year deal.
Omega Pharma-Lotto team boss Marc Sergeant acknowledged that Van Goolen had given strong support to team captain Philippe Gilbert at the Tour of Lombardy. But with the squad signing on a host of new riders for 2011, his performances throughout the year were not enough for the team to justify a contract extension.
"His performance in the final few races wasn't bad, he certainly put the team above himself and rode hard for Gilbert. But the management of the team have to use common sense and look at the season as a whole," said Sergeant. "We know he had setbacks this year. But how can a rider who only races half a season be rewarded with a contract?"
While his career has largely been ridden at the service of others, Van Goolen has taken some strong results in the past. He claimed second in the mountains classification at the 2007 Vuelta a España, and a year later finished 16th overall in the same event. He accepts that his strength lies in a support role and despite the proximity of the new season is hopeful that his qualities will help him find a place in the peloton in 2011.
"I sacrificed my chances for my team captain. Some consider that as an asset, others don't," he said. "My manager has still an iron in the fire. I want to race for another five seasons. I realise that time is short, but for now I'm not overly concerned."
Van Goolen is the third Belgian to leave Omega Pharma-Lotto this year, following the respective departures of Leif Hoste to Katusha and Greg Van Avermaet to BMC Racing Team. Andrei Greipel has joined the team and brought several of his former HTC-Columbia teammates with him to form a new leadout train for the sprints.