As was already indicated by Greg Henderson in a recent interview with CyclingTips, the Lotto-Soudal team has confirmed that he will remain part of the squad in 2016. Also staying on board will be the Belgian Jelle Vanendert, a past stage winner in the Tour de France.
Henderson is 39 years of age but remains one of the best leadout men in cycling. He helped team-mate Andre Greipel to multiple wins in 2015, including stages in Paris-Nice and the Giro d’Italia where he played a vital role.
“For me, it isn’t a surprise that I am still in the peloton on my fortieth birthday, even if I will be an exception in the team,” he said. “The main factor is motivation, I’m still very motivated to be ready when I need to be in top shape.
“Due to my crash in the third stage during the recent Tour de France, I couldn’t play the role I wanted. After Hamburg, I went on an altitude training camp in Colorado together with my family to prepare myself for the World Championships team time trial. We really focussed on it, with a seventh place as result.
“I will try to be in the best possible shape when I’m in competition to share my experience with the other riders. 2015 was a nice season, but I hope that we can do the same next year.”
Vanendert won a Tour de France stage in 2011 and has twice finished second in the Amstel Gold Race. He has been part of the team since 2009 and said that a big factor in him staying on board is because he feels comfortable with the team.
“It’s true that the contract extension lasted a bit longer than usual, but nowadays teams wait longer and longer before extending the current contracts,” he said. “It’s a trend from the past years because some teams stopped and there was an oversupply of riders. Then it becomes a problem when you don’t perform as well as expected.
“I think I already proved what I’m capable of in the past seven years with this team; on the other hand, some years were defined with bad luck. And 2015 was such a year. But I’m not ready yet with cycling and will be motivated to be at my best again in 2016.”
Team manager Marc Sergeant said that their experience was part of the reason why the team wanted to keep them on.
“Since 2012 Greg is the regulator and last man of André Greipel’s sprint train; together they were already successful. Despite his age, Henderson is someone you can count on. Furthermore, he helps the younger riders by giving them advice and loves playing his lead-out role for Jens Debusschere and other sprinters.
“He reads the race, redirects when necessary and is a team player. Recently, at the World Championships team time trial, Henderson was one of the key riders.”
Like Vanendert, he says the Belgian had a difficult season. “He had a lot of bad luck in the period Amstel/Flèche Wallonne/Liège-Bastogne-Liège, so he couldn’t repeat his performances of 2011, 2012 and 2014.
“Jelle is somebody who can focus on a specific race or period and then can get the maximum out of his capacities. If the shape is just not enough, or the luck isn’t there, it’s a disadvantage, because these periods of top shape pass by quickly. Nevertheless, we see him as a valuable member of the team.
“Which role that shall be, will depend on his shape. In the past, he showed that he could also ride for someone else, like he did for Phillipe Gilbert.”