Critérium du Dauphiné: Neo-pro Wilco Kelderman surprises himself in stage four time trial
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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Critérium du Dauphiné: Neo-pro Wilco Kelderman surprises himself in stage four time trial

by Ben Atkins at 2:36 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Critérium du Dauphiné
 
21-year-old Dutch revelation chasing race’s white jersey in debut WorldTour season

Wilco KeldermanUnquestionably, the revelation of today’s Critérium du Dauphiné time trial was Rabobank neo-pro Wilco Kelderman. The 21-year-old Dutchman, who came up through the ranks of the team’s under-23 feeder team, finished just 1’25” behind stage winner Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) over the 53.5km test in fourth place. He now sits in sixth overall, 1’45” behind the British defending champion, but has a firm grip on the white, young riders’ jersey, 1’18” ahead of nearest challenger Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).

“Maybe I’m still not really aware of what I accomplished here today,” he said afterwards. “Surprising? Of course. Even to me.”

“I felt I had good legs quite soon,” Kelderman explained. “At the first time point, [Rabobank directeur sportif] Erik Dekker already yelled I had the best time. At first I thought he meant the team’s best time. Only later I realised that I had been the quickest of all riders at that point. I couldn’t believe that. ‘You can’t be serious’, I thought to myself. There are a lot of great riders in this race, including lots of specialists.”

Although Kelderman was known as a strong time triallist when riding as an under-23, he had yet to post a result at this level in his debut season in the pro ranks.

“I rode a good Tour of California but in the long time trial I finished 27th,” he said. “I was not unhappy about that then. But now fourth, and in a much more competitive field, that’s really surprising. I had to get accustomed to the pro circuit. I am still a first year rider, and I was still missing the power almost all the others have. Now, after six months, it is starting to come.

“In the past I always used to be good in this part of the season,” he added. “Last year around this time I won the Tour of Norway, the Thüringen Rundfahrt and the Dutch National Time Trial Championships. Maybe that’s also a factor.”

More surprising than the young Dutchman’s performance against the host of big names that finished behind him though, is that he had never raced over the distance before.

“Indeed the longest time trial I ever rode,” he said. “I never did one longer than thirty kilometres. It’s a unique experience. I don’t think I will be finding many of them longer than this.

“As far as I am concerned, I took off really fast. I wanted to set a good pace, and then hang on to it as long as I could. I wasn’t afraid I couldn’t make it. After fifteen kilometres I had already overtaken [RadioShack-Nissan’s Haimar] Zubeldia, [Lotto-Belisol’s Jelle] Vanendert and [SAur-Sojasun’s Julien] Simon, who had started before me. That really motivates you as well. I was riding 54×11, and was managing well. A difficult but great experience.”

With the time trial out of the way, the Dauphiné will now tackle three tough days in the Alps. While Kelderman is also known as a strong climber, he has never raced in a field like this one over profiles like those to come.

“I can’t say yet,” he said of his expectations for the coming days. “A good time trial doesn’t automatically mean that you’re good in the mountains as well. But it doesn’t scare me. I climbed well in [the Tour of] California, but one course doesn’t compare to the other. I will try to keep pushing as long as possible.

“The young rider’s jersey more or less turned into a goal now,” he added. “We will see on Friday if that goal is realistic. After Dauphiné? Ride the National Time Trial Championships. I will have to discuss the rest of the program with the team. Vuelta? I don’t know. I already did a full program. The advice of our sports directors matters to me.”

The Rabobank team will now have two cards to play in the rest of the race, with Luis León Sánchez’ strong performance against the clock putting him into ninth overall.

“Let Wilco see how it goes tomorrow and Saturday”, said directeur sportif Adri van Houwelingen. “He will be contending with the world’s best in the Alps, and if he can hang in there, then the best young rider’s jersey is there for the taking. At any rate, he showed today that he can time trial with the best of them. We’re excited about going into the Alps.

“Wiggins made more gains, so his team is going to have to control the race,” he explained. “Of course, we will defend Wilco and Luis León’s positions as best we can, but it’s not up to us to take control. We would very much like to get a stage win. That won’t be easy in a strong field like this, but we’ve shown over the past few days how good our form is!”

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