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."