CHÂTEL, France (VN) — Wilco Kelderman added the prestigious white jersey from Critérium du Dauphiné to his trophy case on Sunday. Team Rabobank’s 21-year-old Dutchman stormed through the long time trial on Thursday, placed eighth overall and won the young riders’ classification in his biggest race to date.
“It was my goal to hold the white jersey. Yesterday was hard, but it’s finally done,” Kelderman told VeloNews. “It was not really a goal to start off with, but in the Tour of California, it went really well. I hoped to be here in the top 20, but I came away with a top 10 and the white jersey. It’s spectacular and amazing for me.”
The sun colored his young skin during the week, but it may be the only telling sign that the neo-professional raced 1051.7km and competed against Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and defending Tour champ, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
In the overall, Kelderman placed 3:26 behind overall winner Wiggins. He lost Sunday over the Joux-Plane, but maintained his spot as one of cycling’s hottest young talents.
“He’s a rider with a lot of talent,” former pro and Rabobank sports director, Erik Dekker told VeloNews.
“We were hoping just for a good ride, not a good overall classification, because we thought he’d lose more in the TT. But then he did so well, fourth place behind three champions. That’s what we thought his limitation was, but he did wonderful.”
As a first-year U23, Kelderman raced for Rabobank’s development team in 2010, and again in 2011. He impressed the bosses so much with wins at the Tour Alsace and Thüringen Rundfahrt that they said he had to turn pro. The only condition, said Dekker, was that he didn’t race a grand tour in his first year.
Rabobank took him to the Tour Down Under, the Volta a Catalunya, the Tour de Romandie and the Tour of California. After a small break at home with his girlfriend Rebecca Talen, who races with Rabobank as well, he will focus on the Dutch championships and the Tour of Poland.
“He needs to learn a lot. He rode with a 27-tooth behind this week for the first time. He liked it, he said, It felt good. Robert Gesink does that, a 27 or 28. Before he was riding with a 25 or 23 and wasting his energy. That’s one thing,” Dekker continued. “The other thing, he has to learn he’s on a higher level and riders look at him differently.”
“I’m learning a lot,” Kelderman added. “It’s different racing here, these stage races are harder… I can still improve in the next years. It’s going to be better hopefully and I’ll be able to show more of myself in the next years and this season.”
Kelderman added the next step would be to ride a grand tour. It’d be an additional test, which added to the white jersey, will indicate what’s possible in the next five years.
“Nobody knows,” Dekker said. “His TT is wonderful. When his climbing improves, he will have a wonderful combination. It’s not easy. It’s not that one plus one is two.”