Team LottoNL-Jumbo has been looking forward to the Paris-Nice stage race since December, marking down ‘The Race to the Sun’ as one of hits major spring targets. Two of the team’s young guns, Moreno Hofland and Wilco Kelderman, will lead the charge: the former will aim for another stage win in Paris-Nice and Kelderman for the overall classification.
“Everyone prepared really carefully for this race,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “That effort must pay off next week because we expect some results.
“Moreno had a spotless pre-season until the Ruta del Sol. He crashed in that race and fell sick afterwards, but we are confident he will be ready for Paris-Nice.
“Wilco is doing fantastically at the moment. He proved himself already on the bike this season and moreover, we have a team which is able to support him perfectly.”
Last year in Paris-Nice, Moreno Hofland lived up to the promise put on him by sprinting to a stage win. Since that victory, his status has increased.
“More is expected from me since my good results during last year’s spring races,” Hofland said. “I have to keep improving my level, which is happening, fortunately. I had a good winter with enough training. I was at the level I wanted to be at for the start of the season. It’s a pity when you have a little setback, but that’s part of the job.
“I examined the profile of Paris-Nice and in the first three stages and stage five, there are chances for me. It would be nice if I can win a stage like last year. Let the race to the sun bring me sunshine after this cloudy period.”
The stages Hofland aims at are the trickiest ones for Wilco Kelderman. Paris-Nice is well-known for his tough stages in the north of France. The bad weather and strong winds often create some precarious moments on the bleak roads.
“That’s why we left already today,” Zeeman said. “We’re going to preview the stages in northern France because we don’t want to lose the race there already. Thursday is the first mountain finish, which gives other riders opportunities. We will be able to perform with Wilco in that part of the race.”
Kelderman expects to do well in the stage race, too. “I felt good in Paris-Nice already last year, but I was a little unlucky,” he explained. “If everything comes together this year, I will be able to finish in the top five.”
Time trial bike
To do that job, Kelderman will count on his climbing skills and the advantages of his new Bianchi time trial bike. “The new bike is truly amazing,” Kelderman said. “Bianchi put a lot of effort into the development of this bike. I’m very happy with that. I feel the differences. The bike is stiff and light, which makes it very efficient. Mentally, something like that gives you an enormous boost.”
George Bennett, Jos van Emden, Moreno Hofland, Wilco Kelderman, Steven Kruijswijk, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii and Maarten Wynants.
Jan Boven and Merijn Zeeman.