UPDATE: NORDHAUG SOLOS TO VICTORY AT HOME IN NORWAY
The Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM's rising Norwegian star, Lars Petter Nordhaug, took the greatest victory of his career Thursday, winning the 204km first stage of the 2014 Arctic Tour of Norway from Hammerfest to Nordkapp.
The 30-year-old from Tonsberg, who won the race's King of the Mountains competition last year, finished all alone with enough time to kiss his wedding ring at the finish line. Teammates Steven Kruijswijk and Jonathan Hivert rounded out the top five just seconds later, finishing third and fifth respectively behind second-place finisher Davide Vilella of Cannondale.
LARS PETTER NORDHAUG
"For a Norwegian to win in Norway, in this special place, is really good. I was feeling super today," Nordhaug said on worldwide television immediately after the stage. "I have to thank my team for pulling at the front. We are three in the top five, so that's amazing."
The Belkin boys, led by Kruijswijk, controlled most of the stage through the dramatic, rolling tundra of Norway's Finnmark region above the Arctic Circle, the northernmost part of Europe and the farthest north pro cycling has ever ventured.
The six-man squad rode at the front of the peloton the entire race, then dominated the final kilometers as the race blew apart in crosswinds. Frenchmen Hivert and Dutchmen Nick van der Lijke controlled attacks from other teams hoping to launch their sprinters; but Nordhaug, seeking victory in his home country, proved to be the strongest man of the day, launching a series of blistering attacks, the last one taking him alone to the finish line.
With Kruijswijk, who placed 15th overall in this year's Tour de France, poised to follow through in the remaining stages, the Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM is in a very good position to capitalize in the coming days. "We're the strongest team here," Nordhaug said. "There are two stages for sprinters, but our goal is the overall classification."
The Arctic Tour of Norway resumes Friday with a rolling, 207km second stage from Honningsvag south to Alta, with an especially sharp, 3.5km climb from below sea level out of the Nordkapp Tunnel early on. The four-day race, in its second year, concludes Sunday in Tromso.
UPDATE: BOOM TAKES REINS IN ENECO TOUR
Lars Boom claimed the white jersey of the Eneco Tour today in Breda, the Netherlands. The Dutchman placed ninth place in stage three's time trial, enough to take the lead from Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and to maintain the points classification lead.
“I would have liked to take the jersey yesterday,” said Boom, referring to Tuesday’s stage that finished in his hometown. He was just one second short of conquering the lead. “But I’m very happy that I’ve become the new leader today. Yesterday was a beautiful day, anyway.”
Boom was moderately satisfied with his TT. The difference with stage winner Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Shimano was 19 seconds.
“Tom is one of the best time trialists in the world. Of course, I would have liked to go faster, but I ended up ninth and my time is good enough. The course was short and had some nice corners.”
Boom now holds a four-second lead over fellow Dutchman Dumoulin. “We will see if that’s going to be enough. I ended the Tour in good form and with a good feeling. I’m now thinking ahead to the heavy weekend.”
The peloton heads from Koksijde to Ardooie tomorrow. Boom said, “Tomorrow is still flat, but the weekend is going to be hell, I think. First we face a kind of Tour of Flanders, after that a version of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and we end the week on Sunday on a course like the Amstel Gold Race.”
Boom explained he thinks the Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM is going to show its strength over the remainder of the Eneco Tour. “I hope to hold on to the lead until Sunday, but personally, I wouldn’t really mind if Bauke or Sep takes over the jersey. I expect that the race will end in a man-to-man battle. I think that would be the most beautiful ending possible.”
UPDATE: LARS BOOM WINS ROUGH TOUR DE FRANCE COBBLESTONE STAGE
Lars Boom triumphed in the fifth stage of the Tour de France today. The Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM rider finished solo after 152 kilometres and seven cobbled sections between Ypres and Arenberg.
“Winning a Tour de France stage is like a dream come true,” said a clearly emotional Boom. “It’s extra special to win in rainy conditions and on cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix. I’ve been dreaming of a wet Paris-Roubaix for years and now this happens at the Tour - Simply fantastic.”
“Sep Vanmarcke and I started the stage with the idea to win. It’s very special to be the first Dutch stage winner in Tour de France since Pieter Weening exactly nine years ago. I’m lost for words. I was crying on the bike already and had goose bumps everywhere.”
Boom led the race with Astana rider Vincenzo Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang in the final kilometres. On the last cobbled sector, he made an attack. “I knew I had to do it there as I’m strong on the cobbles and I wanted to be sure that I was going to win. I thought Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan would catch up with me in the final, but they didn’t. When I got out of the final corner, I knew I was going to win. That was so nice.”&rdquo
A flat tire in the final ruined Vanmarcke’s chances of a stage win, but still the Belgian crossed the line with a fist pump. &ldqruo;It’s just great that Lars managed to win today. Lars and I were both very strong. On the fourth sector, I wanted to attack. I had planned that in advance, but unfortunately I punctured. My race was over after that and of course I was very disappointed, but when I heard that Lars was going to win, I was still able to enjoy the moment.”
Bauke Mollema was able to maintain his spot on the cobblestones, finishing 34th in Arenberg and moving to 18th overall. He trails leader Nibali by 2’27” but only by a minute to most of the other classification riders.
“What an epic stage,” Mollema said. “I was completely empty in the final. Without my team-mates, I wouldn’t have survived today.”
“We were active on two fronts today,&rdqup; said a very satisfied Sports Director Nico Verhoeven. “Our top specialists Lars and Sep did their thing, while the others protected Bauke. It’s fantastic to win and dominate this important stage. This is perhaps the most beautiful stage of this year’s race and people will talk about today for a long time. This also helps us in our search for a new sponsor.”
“Bauke got through the day just fine. He suffered, but barely lost time to most of his competitors.”
Managing Director Richard Plugge thoroughly enjoyed Boom’s victory. “What an incredible win. Totally awesome.” The day went exactly according to the plan of the Sports Directors, except for Sep’s puncture.
“For Lars, this is a huge breakthrough. For the team, it’s very important as this puts us in the global centre of attention. People from all over the world will see this. It’s nice that we can bring this into our talks with potential new sponsors.””
UPDATE: TEAM BELKIN LEAVES ENGLAND WITH GOOD FEELING
A sprint royale concluded the third stage of the Tour de France today in London. Giant-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel managed to take his second stage victory of the week, while the GC riders were where they had to be and didn’t lose any time. Belkin Pro cycling TEAM’s Bauke Mollema remains sixth overall.
“When we entered the city, it reminded me of 2009. Back then we finished in Barcelona under similar circumstances. I crashed that day because I braked on a white line. When it rains those are as slippery as ice. Today, I saw other riders experiencing the same thing several times.”
Maarten Wynants did what he could to help his team leaders and looked back with satisfaction on the British triptych. “We’ve had some hectic days, but we leave England with Bauke in sixth overall and that’s a good thing. Everything went according to plan.&rdquo
“Personally, I experienced a tough first day. I had to get used to the racing again. I started yesterday’s stage as if it was a classic and things went OK. Today, went well as well. I didn’t see much of the crowd in London because I was too focused keeping Bauke in the front over the very slippery and dangerous roads.”
“It was a good day for us,” said Sports Director Merijn Zeeman. “The final 25 kilometres were a bit risky because of the rain, but we were well prepared and knew the parcours. The men know what to do in situations with rain and kept Bauke in the front. Hats off for that.”
The peloton will leave for France tonight after three days of racing in the English countryside. “Our main goal was to survive here in England and we succeeded,” explained Zeeman. “Everyone is OK and I think the last three days have been an amazing campaign for cycling. Tomorrow, in France, I expect a stage like today and we’ll probably see a bunch sprint in Lille.”
UPDATE: KELDERMAN TAKES WHITE JERSEY AND FOURTH IN DAUPHINE
Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM’s Wilco Kelderman ended a very successful Critérium du Dauphiné today with seventh place in the tough final stage, fourth overall and the young rider’s white jersey.
Mikel Nieve (Sky) won the stage to Courchevel after 130 hilly kilometres, Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) took the overall lead from Alberto Contador’s (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Chris Froome (Sky) slipped to 12th overall.
“It was very early in the stage that Nieve, Talanksy and Van den Broeck attacked with some others. Just after the first climb. I could have followed them, but I watched Contador and he waited,” said Kelderman.
“On the penultimate climb, Froome and Contador kept looking at each other and so I decided to attack with Nibali and Fuglsang. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t bridge to the leaders. They kept me hanging at around twenty seconds. That’s unlucky because otherwise I could have finished third overall, ahead of Van den Broeck. Anyway, I won the white jersey and I’m very happy with that.”
ERIK DEKKER SPEECHLESS
Sports Director Erik Dekker was at a loss for words afterwards. “As a cycling fan, I’m speechless about today's stage. It was an amazing fight. We have achieved all our goals this week. Wilco claimed a second, third and fifth place. Today, he ends up fourth overall and in the white jersey. The men gave everything they had and this is just a great result. Martijn Keizer did some important work today. He helped Wilco back to the front after the first climb.”
UPDATE: KELDERMAN IN WHITE AFTER OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE
Wilco Kelderman finished third after a serious and hot Critérium du Dauphiné stage two today. The 23-year old Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM rider fought for the victory on the Col du Béal with winner Chris Froome (Sky) and number two Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) until the very last metres.
Kelderman, seventh overall in the Giro d'Italia, attacked several times on the final climb, but the top riders wouldn’t allow him to stay clear. When they accelerated, the Dutchman returned their favours. Until the last three hundred meters, a group of six remained together. The final sprint of Froome and Contador proved to be too much for the others, although Kelderman was able to stay close and take third place.
“This was quite a surprise for me, to see that I’m still this good. It felt very good on the bike. It’s super nice to battle with these top riders. Although, I wasn’t able to really enjoy myself during the race as the heat was on. Froome and Contador were the first to attack, but started looking at each other when they were clear. We were able to re-join them. At that moment, the pace dropped and I decided to attack because I hoped that they would continue to look at each other. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay away. The differences in the overall are still too small for that.“
THE WHITE JERSEY
Kelderman is now third overall. The gap to race leader Froome is 21 seconds. With his third place, the Dutchman took the lead in the young riders’ classification and will start the third stage in the white jersey.
“I hope to bring that jersey home,” said Kelderman. “It would be really nice to hold on to that third place, as well. I’m now only behind two world class riders. It’s going to be difficult, though. The final weekend is tough and in between, we face some more hard tests. Besides that, riders like Vincenzo Nibali, who are preparing for the Tour, will improve along the course of the week.”
Sports Director Merijn Zeeman is happy to see that the race programme he set up for Kelderman in the winter is proving to be valid. “After the Giro, we decided on the Dauphine instead of the Tour de Suisse with Wilco. Suisse starts a week later and it would have been difficult for Wilco to extend his good run of form for that long. This was physically possible.”
“Mentally, it might have been inconvenient, but Wilco did what he could to recover in the past week. That he would be so strong is something we couldn’t have expected. Today was a highlight for everyone within the team.&rdquo:
UPDATE: TEAM JAMIS - HAGENS BERMAN P/B SUTTER HOME TO TAKE PART IN INAUGURAL GRAN PRIX SAGUENAY
Following two weeks of racing on the East Coast, Team Jamis - Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home traveled to Canada for two UCI stage races. Running from June 5th through 8th, is the inaugural Gran Prix Saguenay, formerly a UCI U23 Nations Cup event, which is followed by the Tour de Beauce running from June 11th through the 15th.
Team Jamis - Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home goes into the four-stage Gran Prix Saguenay with a strong roster that will be looking to contest not only stage wins, but also the overall victory at the conclusion of 560 kilometers of racing. “This is the first year of the event, and we are excited to be able to have this race in our program,” commented team director Sebastian Alexandre following the team presentation. Speaking about the week ahead, Alexandre went on to say, “There is no summit finish or TT [Time Trial] stage, and so every day will be important for the guys who want to be high in the GC; from the first to the last stage, we will be focused on racing hard and to be always in the front.”
Team Jamis - Hagens Berman p/b Sutter Home Gran Prix Saguenay Roster:
Luis Amaran, Ian Crane, Juan Jose Haedo, Stephen Leece, Carson Miller, Robbie Squire, Tyler Wren
UPDATE 3/26/14: VANMARCKE BELIEVES IN STRENGTH OF GENT-WEVELGEM TEAM
Sprints decided Gent-Wevelgem in recent years but Sep Vanmarcke has confidence that he can break it up and win the Belgian one-day race on Sunday, March 30. The Belgian, who finished second in 2010 behind Bernhard Eisel, trusts in the Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM’s power to take control.
“In Gent-Wevelgem you need a bit of luck,” said Vanmarcke. “Of course, you need to be in good shape, but it’s not like there are many hills. The wind plays an important role. You have to sit at the front at the right time. I know that we can pull that off as a team. In Omloop we proved that we can force things in a big race.”
Vanmarcke reconnoitred the Gent-Wevelgem parcours with his team-mates last weekend. “It was nice to refresh my memory. I don’t train a lot in that region.” The most important period of the year has started for Vanmarcke. Ahead of Gent-Wevelgem, he races E3-Harelbeke on Friday. “Which is in an important race for me, as well.” After those two races, the Belgian will focus on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
Sports Director Jan Boven has priorities for Belkin ahead of Gent-Wevelgem. “We ride two very tough races in the days ahead of the race,” he said, referring to Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3-Harelbeke.
“We will take it race by race. Sep is our main man in Gent-Wevelgem but with Moreno Hofland, we have another contender, especially when it comes down to a sprint.”
Lars Boom, Rick Flens, Moreno Hofland, Tom Leezer, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii, Sep Vanmarcke and Maarten Wynants.
Jan Boven and Nico Verhoeven.
UPDATE 3/4/14: TEAM BELKIN FULL OF CONFIDENCE FOR PARIS-NICE
The Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM will travel to France for Paris-Nice this week full of confidence. In the Race to the Sun, Sports Director Merijn Zeeman wants to continue the good run the team displayed in the opening classics weekend.
“The Omloop and Kuurne were a very pleasant confirmation for us,” said Zeeman. “First of all, it was good to see that the men are in a top condition. And besides that, last weekend was the first time this season that we really wanted to be at our best. We worked hard to make the riders into a real team and it was great to see that the men fought the battle together. I really enjoyed it.”
Paris-Nice is the first European WorldTour race of the year so Zeeman knows that many other teams highlighted the race. “But if we ride as a team, then I’m sure that our current form allows us to get in the mix for a good GC and stage victories.”
The Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM will start the race with those goals on March 9 in Mantes-la -Jolie. “Paris-Nice is a versatile race,” explained Zeeman. “We’ll see nervous finals, dangerous downhills, strong winds and demanding climbs. For talents as Moreno Hofland and Wilco Kelderman, it will be a good learning experience. We’ll give them the opportunity to go for their chances, but we’re not going to put pressure on them. As a team we’re going to help Moreno and Wilco. They will have supportive roles, on the other hand they’ll get their chances.”
KELDERMAN IS EAGER
Wilco Kelderman sat in front of his television this weekend and enjoyed the performance of his team-mates in the Omloop and Kuurne. He’s eager to return to racing. “It was really nice what they did. I hope to be good in Paris-Nice as well. I’m aiming for a top ten spot in the overall. We’ll have a strong team at the start and hopefully we can take a stage victory as well. Last weekend confirmed what we already knew: if you race like a team, it will bring you results.”
Jetse Bol, Lars Boom, Jos van Emden, Jonathan Hivert, Moreno Hofland, Wilco Kelderman, Lars Petter Nordhaug and Maarten Wynants.
Jan Boven and Merijn Zeeman
UPDATE 2/12/14: MARKUS THIRD IN RECORD FAST QATAR STAGE
Barry Markus held on and claimed third place in a record-fast Tour of Qatar stage three today. The Belkin Pro Cycling Team rider finished behind winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol). Markus had given up hope but still managed to connect with the Boonen and Greipel’s front group in the last six kilometres. “The pace was so darn high today,” said the young Dutchman, who placed second twice in Qatar last year. “The field was completely torn apart but we just kept driving and eventually we were able to bridge the gap.” The high speeds wore Markus out but he decided to push ahead one last time. “I suffered all day long but thanks to good work by Robert Wagner and Graeme Brown I was still able to finish third. Any more than that wasn’t really in the cards for me. I’m happy with this result.” Bad luck Lars Boom broke his wheel coming into the finish and lost third place in the overall classification. “The roads were very bad today and several riders, not just ours, damaged their wheels, which had to be changed of course,” said Sports Director Jan Boven. “In the final, bad luck struck and Lars fell behind. It was too bad given his amazing time trial yesterday. He was in a good position. We had hoped to hold on to the third place but these things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.” The group set a record average speed of 58 kilometres per hour, over 135 kilometres from Dukhan to Mesaieed, a mark never before reached in the Tour of Qatar. The Dutchman damaged his wheel in the final kilometres and lost his third place in the GC. Ready for tomorrow The peloton expects more hard racing in the longest stage of the week tomorrow. “We have to cover several laps on a circuit,” said Boven. “We’ll be aware as the roads will be bad again and we’ll have to handle several open and windy areas.”
UPDATE 2/11/14: BOOM MOVES AHEAD THANKS TO GOOD TIME TRIAL
Lars Boom moved up to third overall in the Tour of Qatar thanks to a strong time trial today. The Dutchman of the Belkin Pro Cycling Team clocked 13:-39 minutes over 10.9 kilometres. He finished a second too short for the victory, which went to Michael Hepburn of Orica-GreenEdge. Boom finished ahead of Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) and former world champion Fabian Cancellara (Trek). The Italian and Swiss placed third and fourth. After Boom’s attack in the second stage, he again narrowly missed out on a win. However, he was not too bothered by it. “I was very relaxed going into this time trial,” said Boom. “I didn’t put myself under any extra pressure and it worked. I started off well and don’t think I could have gone any faster.”
The peloton had to leave their time trial bikes at home so the team came up with a special trick for its riders: extra tape wrapped around the tops of the handlebars on their Bianchi Oltre XR2 bikes. “That way I was able to bend over a little bit more,” said Boom.
The gap between Boom and race leader Niki Terpstra is now 24 seconds. Lotto-Belisol’s Jürgen Roelandts sits second overall 21 seconds behind Terpstra and three seconds ahead of Boom. “I think it's important to keep an open-mind during this race and just go as deep as possible every day,” added Boom. “It would be nice if I can keep my third place, though.”
Boom doesn’t yet know what to expect of tomorrow’s stage. “But I’m going to check the weather forecast so when it comes to the weather and wind I’ll be completely up to date at the start.”
TEAM BELKIN IS READY FOR 2014
The Belkin Pro Cycling Team presented its riders to the cycling world at the Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum, The Netherlands, ahead on Monday. Wearing Santini outfits and on Bianchi bikes, the riders showed ready for a successful 2014 season. Team Manager Richard Plugge said that the team is able to conquer the hearts of cycling fans yet again in the new year. "It's what we did in last year's Tour de France and what we want to do again in 2014," explained Plugge. "The Tour of California, a home race for us, is high up on our wish list this year. It would be great to put on a nice show there, in the backyard of Belkin owner Chet Pipkin. Two years ago, Robert Gesink won the race."
CLASSICS AND GRAND TOURS
The team's focus will mainly be on the WorldTour events in 2014. "We want to finish highly in the WorldTour rankings by the end of the year," Plugge said "We'll particularly focus on the spring classics, with Lars Boom and Sep Vanmarcke, and the Grand Tours. We have Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman, Bauke Mollema and Laurens ten Dam who can do well there. We also hope that Steven Kruijswijk can reach his top level again after his surgery and can make the next step.
Belkin brightens the future and makes it easier. Thanks to the team's sponsors, Plugge said that he is confident in the team reaching its goals. "Last year Belkin, a serious and enthusiastic sponsor, jumped in. They allow us to look to the future with confidence. Looking towards the more distant future, we'll change the business model drastically in 2014,” continued Plugge. "We're very happy that Bianchi and Santini joined us on our ride to the future. These two established Italian companies use their years of experience in cycling for improving products. We are delighted to have these two new partners onboard and look forward to work and perform at the highest level with them."
"The team strives for excellence, we want to be accessible and motivated to compete at the highest level. To reach excellence we have diverse partnerships, such as Nutrim and DailyFresh for nutrition, the Cruyff Institute for coaching, Weerplaza for weather forecasts and our new cooperation with TranSportium for health, transport and sustainability. Innovation is the main point of our organisation; we try to gain knowledge and to share experiences."
Looking back on the first half year as the sponsor of Team Belkin Arthur van Rest, director product marketing speaks enthusiastically about the first results. “We wanted the world to meet our brand and consumer technology products, and we succeeded," van Rest said. "The sponsorship of the Belkin Pro Cycling team enables us to engage with consumers in a whole new way, sport sponsoring adds to the emotional experience with our brand."
Van Rest praised the team's spirit and its will to innovate. "It was a fantastic experience to enter cycling with this enthusiastic team," said van Rest. "Belkin operates worldwide, breaths innovation and thinks differently and that is the same for the team. This year, we will work closely together with the team and share our technology expertise to help the team innovate. We also want to develop products for consumers based on the experience and insights of the riders."
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2014
The Belkin Pro Cycling Team riders looked ahead to their 2014 season at the Institute for Sound and Vision as well.
Team Belkin has a good start of the season: Robert Gesink concluded the Tour Down Under on Sunday as overall sixth. The position of the Belkin Pro Cycling Team rider wasn’t jeopardized in the sixth and final stage, a 95 kilometre criterium through Adelaide. André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) was the strongest in a bunch kick and claimed the stage victory. Gesink finished 22nd and was the best Team Belkin rider of the day. Gesink looked back with satisfaction on the team’s time in Australia after the last stage. “It’s been a very good race," said the Dutchman, who’s only disappointment was the collarbone fracture of David Tanner. “All my teammates worked hard and thanks to them I was able to compete at the front.” Gesink believes he’s ready for the rest of the season after the Tour Down Under. “This was a good start of the season. Of course, we’d rather won something as a team, but on the other hand, we were among the best in the World Tour this week. I feel that I’m in a good shape.” Gesink is pleased with the professional way the team approached the first race of the season. “We took the race very serious and we did everything we could to be good here. We reached a high level. Maybe next year we could travel to Australia a little bit earlier. We were well acclimatized, don’t get me wrong, but if we could have done a good training block here, maybe we would have been slightly better. It could be an idea for the future. We always look for ways to innovate.”
"The classics are my big goal aim. The period between the E3 Harelbeke and Paris-Roubaix is very important for me. "We're going to prepare for the classics with a special training camp. I'm looking forward to it as we have new materials and it is good to feel how they respond ahead of the races. I hope to ride the Tour de France again, as well. The classic riders had a major role in last year's race and with this year's cobbled stage I hope to be of value again."
"I hope to win a lot of races this year, just like last year, from Qatar to Langkawi and from the Tour of Belgium to the Tour of Turkey. Together with the team, I want to win stages in all those races. I won't ride as many races as last year, normally that works out well because it gives me enough time to train. "I want to focus on myself and my own development, although it remains very nice to sprint against top sprinters like Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel, and to see where you stand. Maybe I can beat them again like in last year's Ster ZLM Toer."
"The Tour de France and the Tour of California are my two biggest goals in 2014. I hope that I can win again in California like I did in 2012. It is a home race for the team now. I know it won't be easy, but I've done pretty well overseas the last few years. "In the Tour, I hope to ride high in the GC. Along with Bauke, I will captain the team. I think it is good to have two leaders because you never know what will happen along the way. I know I can place in the top ten and maybe a little better."
"The Giro is important to me. I'm allowed to ride for myself and I'm super excited. I learned a lot last year. I hope to be a bit stronger this year. I would like to get in the mix for a top ten. I hope to do well in the fight for the white jersey, as well, but I know it will be difficult as Nairo Quintana will be in Italy. During the rest of the season, I hope to do well in every race that I ride. I will ride fewer races than last year."
"My goal for 2014 is to do better than last year. I gained a lot of experience in 2013. I'm a bit older and stronger now and I believe I can make another step. Riders will watch me but that's only normal. However, not much will change. I still want to get the best out of myself in every race that I ride. "My programme is similar to last year's, although this time I will ride Milan-San Remo. I like the new final because it's a bit harder. When I heard of it I thought, 'I must do this.' It combines well with the Tirreno-Adriatico."
"The spring is most important time of the year for me. In races like E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, I hope to fight for the win. Of course, another win in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad would be great as well. I'm really looking forward to Flanders. The new route will make up for an open race like in the past. "Hopefully, I will be at the Tour de France again as well. For a rider like me there usually aren't many opportunities for a stage win, but with this year's cobbled stage, I think I have a chance. I also would love to help the team leaders again. After last year's event the team knows what I'm capable of."