POISY, France (VN) — Australian team Orica-GreenEdge is eyeing one of the Netherlands’ top up-and-coming stage racers, Wilco Kelderman. The 23-year-old Dutchman, who lit up the ending of Thursday’s Critérium du Dauphiné stage and sits third overall, will be free at the end of this season when his contract expires with home team Belkin.
“I don’t know yet where I’ll ride for 2015 yet,” Kelderman told VeloNews today. “Many teams are looking at me and we just need to find the best option.”
Kelderman and his agent Rick van Dongen will set down next week, look over the options and decide where he’ll ride after this season, he said. If he decides to stay with Belkin, he could announce that he signed a renewal contract, but if he jumps ship then he will have to keep quiet until August 1, per UCI rules.
The 6-foot-1-inch rider with blond hair and fair skin developed with the Rabobank feeder team and graduated to its professional team in 2012. Flying the green and black colors of new-for-2013 sponsor Belkin, he rode to seventh overall in the Giro d’Italia last month, overtaking Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) on the final mountain day up the Monte Zoncolan.
Since he will not be racing the Tour de France, Belkin gave him the green light to use his Giro form and try to make a mark in this week’s Critérium du Dauphiné. He stayed with Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) until the final metres of the Col du Béal on Monday, and on Tuesday he attacked multiple times to move within 12 seconds of Froome’s lead.
“I don’t know if a foreign team would be better for me or not. I’m in a good place now. I cannot say much about the foreign teams because I’ve not ridden for one before,” Kelderman said. “An Orica deal already? I have nothing to say about that. It’s a nice team, but Belkin is also a nice team. There are a lot of good teams out there.”
Orica’s lead sport director, Matt White, said that Bradley Wiggins could be an interesting option for the squad as well, but that the team seems more likely to continue down its youthful path, developing riders like the Yates twins, Adam and Simon, and Colombian Esteban Chaves. Kelderman could slot right in.
Team owner Gerry Ryan told Australian media that he has five stage race cyclists on his radar, including Kelderman. “We would be foolish not to have a list, and he would have to be on that list,” Ryan said.
With Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink, Belkin has contracts to renew with three different grand tour contenders. It appears likely that one of the three will slip through its hands.
“Talks are going on with Belkin, that’s the first option because we really want to stay with that team. Besides that five or six other top teams have shown interest,” van Dongen said. “Belkin is working on long-term goals with Wilco, but those five to six teams have the knowhow to develop him. And money-wise, it’s all the same. Only in the time of Rabobank did they pay extra for a Dutch star, now with an international sponsor Belkin, it’s a different story.”
For now, all Kelderman can do is race is bike and let the rast play out.
“I’m going to try to win the race,” Kelderman said. “This week has been going better than I expected and I’m really good after the Giro d’Italia. This form will take me through the whole week.”
In the coming weeks, if Belkin does not announce that Kelderman has signed a renewal contract, it is likely the Dutchman is going abroad — perhaps to Orica — for 2015.