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Twice fourth in the Tour de France, Jurgen Van den Broeck has given up on chasing another high finish in that race in 2015 and has explained his decision to adopt a completely different programme.
The Belgian rider will instead target one week WorldTour events and will also ride the Vuelta a España. He may also ride the Giro d’Italia, although this decision will be made at a later point.
“My plans for 2015 were made together with the team,” Van den Broeck stated, talking about what was likely a complicated choice to have made.
“It will be different than other years, but with the same dedication for my new goals. I want to show what I’ve got. The Tour podium is still a dream, there are other riders that have skipped a year. But I have new dreams for other races as well now. I’ve proven that I’m worth top ten in WorldTour stage races.”
Being 31 years of age, Van den Broeck likely has another couple of years at or close to his top level. According to the Lotto Belisol team manager Marc Sergeant, the rider’s crash in the 2013 Tour de France, the aggravation of the resulting knee injury in the 2014 Tirreno-Adriatico and his long rehabilitation from that are major factors in the decision.
While he was a fine third in the Critérium du Dauphiné, he was only 13th in this year’s Tour and then withdrew from the Vuelta a España. The latter two results prompted the rethink.
“The Dauphiné was hopeful and that’s why it seemed obvious to start the Tour with a clear ambition,” said Sergeant. “Circumstances made it impossible to fulfil his and our ambitions. In the Vuelta he had no energy left.
“A few weeks ago we sat together. I suggested not to ride the Tour; that way Jurgen is freed from the Tour pressure and the expectations there are after two fourth places,” he continued.
“My idea was to focus on the WorldTour stage races of one week and to ride the Vuelta. WorldTour points are important for Jurgen and the team. He agreed not to ride the Tour, but would maybe like to add the Giro to his race programme. [It’s] the race where it all began when he got into top ten in 2008.”
Van den Broeck was seventh in that event six and a half years ago.
The Belgian rider will begin his season in the Ruta del Sol and then continue on from there by riding Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya. He and the team will then decide at the start of April if he will modify his programme to build up for and ride the Giro d’Italia, or if he will instead compete in the Tour de Romandie and Tour de Suisse.
Van den Broeck said that he had mixed feelings but won’t miss the pressure.
“The Tour is the most beautiful race, but I don’t say no to a new project,” he said. “I have a love-hate relationship with the Tour. I got into top five two times, but there are the several crashes I had as well.
“I was criticized by the media and others. I can put that in perspective, but it’s no fun. The Giro can be an option in 2015. That race is special to me because my career as a GC rider started there. I dream of a nice season.”