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"It’s important to know that I am sure of my sprint chances and that I don’t have to prove myself or have to battle with my teammates to see who will be the sprinter on duty," Van Poppel tells Cyclingmole

Photo: Sirotti




13.12.2013 @ 14:29 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

At the Tour de France, 19-year-old Danny Van Poppel drew much attention for being the youngest participant since World War II and the spotlight only got stronger when he finished 3rd on the first stage. In 2014 the young Dutchman is one of the main sprinters at Trek Factory Racing and is pleased to not have to constantly fight for his position in the hierarchy.


Vacansoleil-DCM didn't have much success in their final participation in the Tour de France. While the failed to attract much attention for their performances on the road, they filled the papers when they announced their line-up for the race.


The reason was not the inclusion of stars like Thomas De Gendt, Juan Antonio Flecha or Lieuwe Westra. Instead, it was the presence of 19-year-old Danny Van Poppel that drew attention. In his first season as a professional, the youngster was the youngest participant in the race since World War II.


The media attention only increased when Van Poppel finised 3rd behind Marcel Kittel and Alexander Kristoff on the opening stage and got the chance to wear the white jersey on stage 2. He finished in the top 10 in two bunch sprints later in the race before abandoning the race on the second rest day.


The success was far more than Van Poppel had ever imagined in his first season.


"I’ve had a very good season with Vacansoleil-DCM," he tells Cycllingmole. ""Better than expected. The main goal was to learn, but things went faster than scheduled, with my Tour debut as the best example."


With the demise of Vacansoleil, Van Poppel was forced to search for a new team and he found his home at Trek Factory Racing which has taken over the license, the management and most of the riders from the Radioshack team. Despite his youth, he will be one of the main sprinters on the team.


With riders like Kenny Van Hummel, Romain Feillu, Kris Boeckmans, Grega Bole, Barry Markus and Danny's brother Boy, Vacansoleil had several sprinters that had to share the races between them. The only established sprinter on the Trek team is Giacomo Nizzolo and his brother Boy, with Fabio Felline being a more versatile fast finisher and Eugenio Alafaci and Jasper Stuyven being talented neo-professionals.


This will give Van Poppel more certainty that he will be a protected rider in certain races. Because of his age, the team has, however, decided not to line him up in the biggest races on the calendar and he will not do the Milan-Sanremo or any of the grand tours. Instead, he hopes to do some of the cobbled spring classics.


" I cannot do more than trying to give the best of me," he said. "I will ride a balanced program without the biggest races with Trek Factory Racing, so I believe there won’t be too much pressure. It’s important to know that I am sure of my sprint chances and that I don’t have to prove myself or have to battle with my teammates to see who will be the sprinter on duty."


In 2014 Van Poppel will be riding in the same colours as Fabian Cancellara. The youngster is excited about the prospect of potentially getting support from the Swiss star in the lead-outs.


"That’s magnificent," he said when asked about riding with Cancellara. "When it comes down to open the gas, nobody is able to beat him. But anyway… I don’t expect to get a real sprint train many times. I usually will have one or two helpers. Getting a real sprint train is likely something for the future."


One of those support riders will be his brother Boy.


"Sure, that’s very important," he said when asked about riding with his brother." Not especially because he’s my brother, but even more because he’s my perfect lead-out man. He knows me better than anybody else and he knows how to prepare my sprint better than anybody else. That’s something you can’t underestimate."


While Van Poppel had much success in 2013, he failed to win a race. Hence it is no surprise that his main goal is to open his account.


I’d like to win at least once and the race I’d love to pick for that is the Tour of California," he said. "Beside that I want to become better again this season. That’s a goal for every young rider I guess."



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