Belkin target strong overall showing at Vuelta a Espana

Dutch team unveils line-up to support Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman and Laurens ten Dam

Belkin Pro Cycling will be targeting strong overall results at the Vuelta a Espana after unveiling a squad to support three general classification men.

Rising star Wilco Kelderman, Robert Gesink – who has recently returned to racing after heart surgery – and Tour de France top-ten finisher Laurens ten Dam are all selected for the Dutch team.

Wilco Kelderman is one of three riders lined up to lead Belkin at the Vuelta a Espana (Pic: Sirotti)

In what will be the squad’s final Grand Tour in its current guise – with Belkin withdrawing their headline sponsorship at the end of the year – the Dutch team will hope to be in the mix in the general classification in Spain.

Sports director Nico Verhoeven said: “We’ll take Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman and Laurens ten Dam to Spain, it’s clear our target is the overall.

“Wilco has trained at altitude in Utah. In the Tour of Utah, he showed well. Robert has also trained in the United States and we saw him do well in the Tour of Poland.

“They are our first two leaders. Laurens had a good Tour. As with Steven Kruijswijk in the Tour, we won’t let him do the dirty work in the Vuelta and burn him up unnecessarily.

“I don’t like to talk results when it comes to our ambitions. We’ll strive for the best possible place in the strong field that will be lining up for the Vuelta.”

Gesink missed a large chunk of the season, including the Tour de France, after his surgery but finished eighth at the Tour of Poland on his return to racing.

The Dutchman, 28, will use the race to build form for next season as well as targeting a high placing overall.

He said: “Because of the long stages and the long travels, Poland turned out to be a heavy week. I was able to work on my intensity there and that’s important.

Robert Gesink returned to action at the Tour of Poland and will now target a strong showing at the Vuelta a Espana (Pic: Sirotti)

“To extend the benefits of my training camp, I’ll sleep in my altitude tent a few times this week. Moreover, I have done some time trial training sessions as the race begins with an important team time trial.

“For me, of course the GC is what matters, but I also hope to gain some confidence so that I’m ready to have a normal season again next year. In the past, I did well in the Vuelta, both in stages and in the overall. I hope to get to that level again.”

Kelderman, meanwhile, has added to his rising stock this year by putting together a string of good results – including finishing seventh at the Giro d’Italia.

The 23-year-old, who was crowned best young rider at the Criterium du Dauphine before taking a break from racing to rebuild form for the Vuelta, was fifth overall at this month’s Tour of Utah.

Ten Dam, meanwhile, is hoping to follow a strong Tour de France, where he finished a career-best ninth overall.

A top-ten finisher at the Vuelta two years ago, the Dutchman admitted he has already eyed up some of the mountain stages in the latter half of the race.

Also selected are Stef Clement and Grand Tour debutant Moreno Hofland, who will target spring stage wins against the likes of Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale).

And the Dutch team is completed by Martijn Keizer, Paul Martens, Maarten Tjallingii and Robert Wagner.

Belkin Pro Cycling team for the 2014 Vuelta a Espana

Laurens ten Dam (NED)
Robert Gesink (NED)
Wilco Kelderman (NED)
Stef Clement (NED)
Moreno Hofland (NED)
Paul Martens (GER)
Robert Wagner (GER)
Maarten Tjallingii (NED)
Martijn Keizer (NED)

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