Lotto help Jelle regain his mojo
It speaks volumes for Jelle Vanendert and Lotto-Belisol that the genial Belgian is back at the sharp end of cycling’s elite UCI WorldTour after a fruitless campaign in 2013 that ended with him accepting a pay cut to retain his position.
Finding a slot among the best teams in the world is not easy, as anyone of the riders employed last year by the now defunct Euskaltel-Euskadi and Vacansoleil-DCM teams will attest.
After finishing second to former Lotto team-mate and close friend, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), at the Amstel Gold Race, and sixth at La Flèche Wallonne, both Vanendert and Lotto-Belisol must be pleased with the bargain. Jelle is re-established and with another low-key start to the season from team-mate Jurgen Van Den Broeck, may yet represent the team’s best option for the mountain stages of the Tour de France.
It has been RCUK’s privilege to travel with Lotto-Belisol, to training camps and races, and the Herentals-based squad has a something of a family atmosphere, despite the professionalism required to compete at the highest level. Its riders are friendly and amendable, not prima donnas. Its doctors are a husband-and-wife team; cycling fans who attend races in time away from running a family practice. Andy Rihs may have the cash to buy up its best riders for BMC Racing, but instead of bemoaning the departure of Gilbert and Cadel Evans, the men in red have regrouped around the formidable sprinting talent of Andre Greipel and reinvented themselves as the best lead-out train in cycling.
Vanendert, a sensitive soul by all accounts, who rooms with younger brother, Dennis, and misses the influence of Gilbert, has rediscovered his mojo – a renaissance in large part due to the Lotto-Belisol team management, who, unable to keep a rider at all costs, have done what they can to retain him, rather than cast him to the firey wastes. If Vanendert excels at Liege on Sunday, all parties can regard the current arrangement with satisfaction, and the rider can look forward to a pay rise next year.
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