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American Vermeulen returns to Dutch roots with LottoNL

MILAN (VN) — Alexey Vermeulen arrived in Amsterdam from Michigan this week to begin his professional career with WorldTeam LottoNL-Jumbo. After three years developing on BMC Racing’s feeder team, he said he feels at home with the Dutch squad.

Vermeulen began riding at age 12 when his grandfather Richard took him out. Richard died in 2009 of cancer, but he would be proud of his grandson’s career choice because it completes a circle. After World War II, Vermeulen’s grandfather migrated from the Netherlands to Canada and said that he always wanted to move back.

“I spent three seasons in BMC’s development team, I had an offer to turn professional with them, but then LottoNL came up,” Vermeulen told VeloNews.

“They said how they wanted to develop me as a classification cyclist. That hooked me in.”

Even before signing him, Richard Plugge and his staff showed the 21-year-old from Ann Arbor what his typical schedule would be. “That was comforting,” Vermeulen said.

LottoNL is the Netherlands’ top team with Robert Gesink and Sep Vanmarcke, but it sits midway down the list in terms of budget size. BMC is near the top, in the stratosphere with Sky and Astana.

“Budget crossed my mind, but it was not a factor in my decision. Both teams spend their money well. It comes down to the way the teams manage what money they have and how they spend it that makes a difference,” Vermeulen added. “And maybe with this smaller budget, there’s more of a family atmosphere.”

Vermeulen has already met his new teammates. Soon he will travel back to Girona, Spain, where he will live with BMC’s Peter Stetina.

“I’m happy to live near mountains for the first time in my life. I grew up in the flats and had to simulate mountains in training or ride them the few times I went to Tucson or Majorca.”

Gesink should be keeping Vermeulen under his wing for the first months, which is just fine for LottoNL’s new signee since he wants to be a grand tour rider. Gesink placed fourth in the 2010 Tour de France and has five top-10 results there.

“I always wanted to ride the Giro or the Tour. I see myself as a climber and a time trialist, so it’s perfect,” Vermeulen said.

“A grand tour is my goal. Maybe I can ride one this year, the Vuelta a España, but I’m not in a rush. At LottoNL, I’m able to pick my schedule and have a chance later in the year to race for myself.”

It was on the climbs that LottoNL took note of Vermeulen. He placed sixth in the queen stage of the Giro della Valle d’Aosta last July.

“It was a disappointment though. I was flying at nationals. I wanted a top 5 at Aosta and wanted to be a leader for the Tour de L’Avenir,” he said. “After a couple of missed flights, when I arrived in Europe, I felt flat. I didn’t have that perfection that I wanted. Still, those top six that day and Robert Power got a contract.”

Vermeulen is due to start racing in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in early February, and will line up in the Tour de Romandie and the Amgen Tour of California in the spring.