Jurgen Van Den Broeck: “Next year’s Tour de France is already in my head”
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Jurgen Van Den Broeck: “Next year’s Tour de France is already in my head”

by Ben Atkins at 6:02 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Best Belgian in a generation just misses out on the podium again but hopes for more climbing in 2013

jurgen van den broeckWith a second fourth place overall, Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) confirmed his status as the best Belgian Tour de France rider in a generation. The podium has been elusive once more however, to the 29-year-old from Herentals, largely thanks to some bad luck in the first week.

Van Den Broeck managed to avoid the carnage of the numerous crashes that hit the early flat stages but, as the big names of the peloton approached its first summit finish of the race on la Planche des Belles Filles, disaster struck as his chain dropped just as the action was about to start.

Despite chasing hard with teammate Jelle Vanendert, the Belgian lost 1’52” to Team Sky stage winner Chris Froome; a less than impressive performance in the first long time trial of the race, two days later, saw him lose a further 3’09” to Sky’s eventual race winner Bradley Wiggins.

Going into the second week of the Tour, Van Den Broeck was already 5’20” behind Wiggins, back in ninth overall.

"When you see where we stood at the first rest day, after the bad luck on La Planche des Belles Filles and a bad time trial, I think I can be very satisfied with the result,” the Belgian reflected after the race. “I didn't doubt, because I knew that in the Tour something happens every day. At that point we knew a fifth or sixth place would be brilliant; I finish just next to the podium, but in the top five, and I have achieved that result by making the race and attacking. Two years ago I had to limit myself to following, now I set a new step in my development. This is more beautiful than then, because I'm one place higher in the GC and have made the race."

In 2010 Van Den Broeck actually finished the race in fifth, but was later upgraded to fourth after the retrospective disqualification of original winner Alberto Contador. Last year, the Belgian was one of the many overall contenders to be knocked out of the race by the series of crashes that rocked the early stages. This time he was ready to repeat his result from two years ago and remained focussed, even after the near disasters of the first week.

"That I have never panicked, is definitely a step forward with regard to the past,” he said. “Mental coaching means that I have adapted my way of thinking, have become calmer, and of course I enjoy the fruits of it. Negative energy doesn't yield anything, keeping to recall things that went wrong, doesn't help you during the Tour.

"This year I climbed with the best, but the time trial stays something to work on, which is a long term task,” he conceded. “My time trialling will never be super, that ‘s my nature, but I should be able to control the damage as much as possible. That I once became world champion time trial with the juniors doesn't come into it. I have always said that everyone starts from scratch with the pros.

"As well as that I could hide myself better in the peloton this year; ride much less with my nose in the wind,” he added. “Guys like [Lars] Bak and [Adam] Hansen led me each time into a favourable position; behind their backs I feel very comfortable. They don't give themselves 100, but 120 percent.

Like Team Sky and Liquigas-Cannondale, Lotto-Belisol entered the Tour de France with both overall ambitions, and plans to aim for stage victories, through Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, and André Greipel respectively. The three sprinters came out of the race with three stages apiece, but that was not the sum of their contribution to their team’s races.

“We came to the Tour with a very strong team, that has functioned perfectly,” said Van Den Broeck. “When you see how Greipel on the Tourmalet went to pick up water bottles for us and drove past the whole peloton to bring them, that was great class. This was an ideal group; the men kept smiling, have always kept believing in it. But the strength of the team, is more than the strength of the riders."

Onward to the Vuelta and maybe the Worlds

After his strong Tour de France in 2010 Van Den Broeck ended his season quietly with few major races, but 2011 saw him - and many of the others to crash out of the Tour - take on the Vuelta a España, where he finished eighth overall. The Lotto-Belisol rider will not be part of the Belgian team at the Olympics in London 2012, and he doesn’t rule out a repeat of last year’s appearance in Spain.

"Normally in a few weeks the Vuelta follows,” he said. “I now don't have the feeling I'm exhausted, but that may be different in a few days. I see the Vuelta as an ideal end to the season. We'll see what it brings. I can't prepare it the same way as the Tour; if stage win can be a goal, we’ll see during the race.

“I also think the World championships could be something for me,” he added. “I'd like to be part of the team. If I leave the Vuelta well, why not? There aren't so many riders that can really cope with that course."

With no Olympics on his schedule, Van Den Broeck will be one of the few riders from the top of the Tour classification to be riding the traditional post-Tour criteriums.

"This week I ride the criteriums of Sint-Niklaas and Herentals,” he said. “Two years ago I rode a lot, but this year I want to limit it; I have learned that spending time with my family is also important. The last months I have been away from home so much, have sacrificed so much for cycling; eating, drinking, resting, always be focused.

“My mission is accomplished, my crash of last year has taught me to enjoy the Tour. When you see how much the Tour de France gives to many families, that really is fantastic. And enjoying causes a more relaxed feeling.”

Although he has just missed the podium again, with his Belles Filles disaster and poor time trialling being the difference between himself and Nibali in third, Van Den Broeck’s recent Tour performances are still the best in a generation. Understandably, he is already thinking about next year’s race, where he will try to go at least one better again.

"A few years ago I had never thought I could do this once, let alone two times,” he said. “A podium place in the Tour would really cap my career. The next Tour indeed is already in my head. I also hear the rumours there should be more climbing.

“But I would never keep on racing till I'm forty like Jens Voigt does."


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