MORZINE, France (VN) — Jurgen Van den Broeck is gaining confidence ahead of the Tour de France. With top places in the Critérium du Dauphiné’s time trials and rivals like Andy Schleck abandoning, he and his Lotto-Belisol team are thinking a top-five finish is within reach next month.
“In the prologue he was good and in the long time trial Thursday he was 11th. For us it’s great,” Lotto sports director Herman Frison told VeloNews. “If we look at the last two years, he was always one minute behind. This time he was 10 or 15 seconds up. It’s good for him and builds confidence.”
A time trialist like Brad Wiggins of Sky will likely dominate this year’s Tour de France. However, people forget that Belgium’s Van den Broeck once won a time-trial world championship. When Jan Ullrich claimed the elite title in Lisbon in 2001, 18-year-old Van den Broeck won the junior version.
At home in Herentals, he speaks regularly with his trainer Marc Lamberts. The duo, along with Lotto’s input, has worked hard on Van den Broeck’s climbing. They improved it to the point where he earned top spots in cycling’s biggest tours. He placed seventh in the 2008 Giro d’Italia, 15th in the 2009 Tour and fifth in the 2010 Tour.
Only a fractured shoulder blade and two broken ribs sustained in the Tour last year held him back from something more. As with Wiggins, who also crashed, he bounced back and placed eighth in the Vuelta a España.
“Last year, he was good, but lost too much time,” continued Frison. “When we saw the Tour route presented, we asked Marc to spend more time training him for the time trials.”
Frison knows Van den Broeck, now 29, well. He traveled with him during the last month after the classics season ended, first to a high-altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada, Spain, and then to preview all of the mountain stages.
The Dauphiné was his first race back after a month and a half. He took some time to find his rhythm, but Frison is impressed so far.
“He seems at the same level as the years before, but he’s getting stronger with age. Every year, a little better and stronger,” he said. “Now’s the time to go for a good result.
“The goal is the top 10 in the Tour, but now, we are even thinking the top five and maybe more! Even if he doesn’t get it this year, he can get there. The team trusts him.”
On Monday, Van den Broeck goes back home for two days and then returns to Sierra Nevada for training. He’ll spend a week there, with his focus on the Tour de France and another top-five finish.