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Crucially, Rabobank continued to sponsor the junior team. And it is riders from this junior team who are helping to right the wrongs of previous Dutch stars. Three names that spring to mind are Wilco Kelderman, Tom-Jelte Slagter and Moreno...

Photo: Belkin Pro Cycling Team






15.03.2014 @ 09:45 Posted by Joseph Doherty

In the aftermath of Lance Armstrong and USADA, it became clear that it was not only the USA who was hit by the scandal. The Netherlands too suffered hugely as a consequence of the report. Rabobank pulled their sponsorship of its pre team at the end of 2012 and the team was unsure if it would continue, although it did eventually find funding and continued under the name of Blanco until Belkin stepped in before the Tour de France to sponsor them. Big stars such as Micahel Boogerd admitted to have been taking drugs and the country was shattered, at a loss for all of its stars cheating. The demise of Vaconsoleil-DCM left more Dutch riders without a team never mind a WorldTour ride and there are fewer pathways for Dutch riders to make it to cycling’s top level.


Crucially, Rabobank continued to sponsor the junior team. And it is riders from this junior team who are helping to right the wrongs of previous Dutch stars. Three names that spring to mind are Wilco Kelderman, Tom-Jelte Slagter and Moreno Hofland. All three are products of the Rabobank development team.


Hofland, a sprinter, took Stage 2 of Paris-Nice this week and is a big hope for potential hilly Classics and Grand Tour stages.  “Moreno is a big talent. The way he sprinted today shows how good he is,” said Belkin sport director Merijn Zeeman. “He’s not a pure sprinter, but can win hard races out of small groups. He has a big future ahead of him.”


Hofland has already won a stage at the Ruta del Sol, Paris-Nice and been second behind Tom Boonen in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. This is very impressive for a man who was relatively unheard of until now.


“The last couple of weeks were pretty good for me and I’m hoping to hold this form as long as possible,” Hofland said Monday. “I improved a lot in the last seasons and I made tests in the winter showing how fast I could go, but I was not expecting to peak so fast. My objective this season is to take part in the classics and keep learning. There’s a great new generation of sprinters coming up, and it’s very exciting.”


Other Talent


Tom-Jelte Slagter may prove to be the one that got away for Belkin. The winner of last year’s Tour Down Under left at the end of the year after being blackmailed into signing a contract and now rides for Garmin Sharp along with Raymond Kreder and neo-pro Dylan van Baarle. Slagter took the hilly stage 4 of Paris-Nice and is one to watch for the Ardennes classics. He is only 24 too, so has plenty of time to repay Jonathan Vaughter’s faith in him. He is probably the man mstly likely to end the wait for a Dutch winner of Amstel Gold, the only Dutch WT race. He is very fast in a sprint on both the flat and uphill, making him a better bet than Mollema.


Wilco Kelderman was 17th in his debut Grand Tour last year, the Giro. This year he will be back for Belkin to try and better this performance. He won the Tour of Denmark last year and is Belkin’s GC man this week at Paris-Nice. He has been active on a number of stages and looks really impressive.


“We do not know how far he can go. He can climb well for a tall rider, and his time trialing is very good,” said Belkin sport director Erik Dekker of Kelderman. “We will see if he can develop into a grand tour rider. We don’t want to put too much pressure, because he is young, but he’s also very good.”


There are also the van Poppel brothers, Danny and Boy, at Trek. Danny won a stage at last weeks Three Days of West Flanders and was the youngest man at the Tour last year at just 19 years old.


New Hope 


When you factor in all of these promising young talents with the four current Dutch stars Bauke Mollema, Laurens Ten Dam, Robert Gesink and Lars Boom (all Belkin), the future look bright for Dutch cycling and maybe the loyal Dutch fans will be able to forget all of the cheats and liars that brought a magnificent “cycling nation” to its knees. 


All of the riders mentioned above have the potential to win big races and return Dutch Cycling to its height of the 1990's, but this time they are doing it clean.




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