Lotto-Belisol will once again challenge on two fronts at the Tour de France after announcing their squad to support leaders Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Andre Greipel in the 100th edition of cycling’s greatest race.
Van Den Broeck finished just off the podium in fourth place last time out – the second such finish of his career – and he is eager to go one better in this year’s Tour, which starts in Corsica on Saturday June 29.
At Saturday’s first stage all eyes will be on the sprinters however, with German national champion Greipel, 30, expected to pose a real threat to Mark Cavendish’s (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) hopes of wearing the yellow jersey.
And manager Marc Sergeant believes the in-form German, who claimed three stage victories at last year’s tour, will have the best possible train at his disposal after a year of hard work.
“The competition is big and the last straight line will be big,” he said. “But of course our goal is to lead Andre to a stage win.
“The past few months we worked on the automatisms, with a number of victories as a result, but at the start of the Tour all fast guys begin as equals.”
Griepel, with the support of compatriot Marcel Sieberg, Belgium’s Jurgen Roelandts and New Zealander Greg Henderson, has achieved stage wins at the Tour Down Under, Tour of Turkey, Tour of Belgium and Tour Méditerranéen already this year.
He also bagged the points classification jerseys in Belgium and at the Ster ZLM Toer, while Roelandts took the points jersey at the Tour Méditerranéen.
Van Den Broeck meanwhile will be counting on the support of debutant Bart de Clercq, 26, a climbing specialist, and another fellow Belgian Frederik Willems, who rides the Tour for the fifth time.
The 30-year-old has four top-ten finishes to his name this year but concerns were raised after a poor showing earlier this month at the Criterium du Dauphine, which he attributed to illness.
Sergeant believes his ambitious fellow countryman is in good shape for the start of the ‘special’ Tour on Saturday however.
“We know the cause of the two difficult days in the Dauphiné, but I think it was clear immediately that this hasn’t affected his focus and goal,” he said.
“It’s still his ultimate goal to make a bid for the Tour podium, but there aren’t few candidates for a place in top ten. For our country it’s a unique fact to have a rider who can have those kinds of ambitions.
“The 100th edition of the Tour will be even more special than another Tour. I hope we will succeed to pursue our ambitions with the team spirit that is characteristic for Lotto Belisol as well on the bike as next to it, with riders and staff.”
Lotto-Belisol’s line-up is completed by Australian domestique Adam Hansen, a stage winner at this year’s Giro d’Italia, and 33-year-old Dane Lars Bak.
Tour de France 2013 – Lotto-Belisol
Jurgen Van Den Broeck
Bart De Clercq