Danny Van Poppel earns Tour stage podium at age 19
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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Danny Van Poppel earns Tour stage podium at age 19

by Kyle Moore at 5:14 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Surprising Vacansoleil-DCM selection pays off with stage one finish

Danny Van PoppelHe may have been the final man picked for the Vacansoleil-DCM Tour de France roster, but Danny Van Poppel turned his surprise selection into a solid stage placing on Saturday’s first stage of the Tour. Van Poppel sprinted to third place behind winner Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and runner up Alex Kristoff (Katusha), albeit in a peloton reduced of some of its sprinters because of a late crash.

But full strength field or not, Van Poppel showed a solid turn of speed, using the middle of the road in the closing metres after coming out from behind Kristoff. Van Poppel even had to wait a little bit, with Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at the front of his line, with Kristoff behind him. Once the Katusha rider emerged from behind Trentin, Van Poppel found his own line as well. Though he couldn’t deal with the speed of Kittel, he took the quality third place.

Dutch sports group Infostrada reports that Van Poppel, at age 19, is the youngest rider to take a top three spot in a Tour de France stage in 82 years. He is the son of Vacansoleil-DCM director Jean-Paul Van Poppel, himself a winner of nine stages of the Tour de France, as well as the brother of Boy Van Poppel, who is also on the Vacansoleil Tour roster and who helped lead his younger brother to the finish.

“I was warned that it would be crazy and you can be sure that it was,” the youngest Van Poppel enthused after the stage. “In the last ten kilometers the speed on my computer didn't get under 65 kilometers an hour. As a sprinter you shouldn't be scared, and it was even more hectic with the possible changed finish line, but I stayed focused.

“I decided to look at Kittel and the other strong sprinters. My brother and Kris [Boeckmans] did a great job helping me out in the final. This helped me get a perfect position and I managed to finish third.”

The accomplishment is all the more impressive given the circumstances of the finale, which had the finish line moving and moving back due to the Orica-GreenEdge bus getting stuck on top of it.

Van Poppel has yet to grab a victory this year, his best finishes being runner up placings in stages of the Tour of Belgium and the Tour of Luxembourg. He is out to prove he belongs, but he was surprised to experience such success on the first stage.

“I just do what I have to do and sometimes I surprise myself,” he continued. “I proved here that I am fast. The fact that I had to stop sprinting for a second didn't cost me the win because Kittel was too fast for me. Although second place could have been possible.

“I came to the Tour for a good result and I got it in stage one. I will see how the rest of the days go and of course I will believe in a win, but that would be something more likely to happen in a few years time.”

Danny’s father was happy to see things go so well from the team car, and offered up commendations for his entire team.

“It all went like we had planned. It was good teamwork from our sprinters and Sergey Lagutin, who took them to their position in excellent fashion,” Jean-Paul praised. “They did a great job. Of course we knew that some people would criticize taking a 19-year-old [to the Tour] but we believed that there is a place for youngsters in the Tour nowadays. You see it at several teams with riders of almost the same age. We monitor Danny very closely and if we see that it is too much we will act responsibly.”

It was not a perfect day for Vacansoleil however, as Dutch champion Johnny Hoogerland crashed just before the real fireworks went off. He got caught up in a banner at the side of the road and required a number of stitches in his elbow from the team doctor after the stage.

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