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“It’s really special to start my first Tour de France at home."

Photo: Sirotti

JOS VAN EMDEN

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KOEN DE KORT

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ROBERT GESINK

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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WILCO KELDERMAN

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02.07.2015 @ 09:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The Tour de France is ready to start in the Netherlands for the sixth time. Wilco Kelderman of Lotto NL-Jumbo will ride stage 1 with the national colors after he claimed the Dutch title for individual time trial. The only Dutch team is led by four climbers.

 

Being the local hero in Utrecht as he lives in Amersfoort only twenty kilometers away, Kelderman rode his bike to join his team at their hotel. “It’s really special to start my first Tour de France at home”, he said while LottoNL-Jumbo co-leader Robert Gesink told him how great it is as he already experienced it in Rotterdam five years ago. “It was a big success”, the “condor of Varsseveld” (Gesink’s nickname) remembered. “Cycling is big in the Netherlands these days. People deserve to have the Tour coming here. It’s going to be a big show.” Instead of taking part in the national championship last Sunday, Gesink went to reconnoitre stage 12 of the Tour de France in the Pyrenees after a short stay in Spain with his family. LottoNL-Jumbo has decided to focus on climbing this year with responsibilities given to Laurens ten Dam and Steven Kruijswijk along with Kelderman and Gesink.

 

“Tension will get higher and higher as we approach the start of the race this Saturday”, said Jos van Emden who will ride the Tour de France for the first time at the age of 30 in his seventh season as a pro cyclist. Four of the twenty Dutch riders lining up are beginners. Ramon Sinkeldam of Giant-Alpecin and Dylan van Baarle of Cannondale-Garmin are the other two with Kelderman and Van Emden.

 

In twenty-five years, this is the first time with so many riders from the Netherlands to take part in the Grande Boucle. They were thirty back in 1989 but a maximum of nineteen since then. Only France has more starters than the host country of the Grand Départ with fourty-one. The history of Dutch cyclists at the Tour goes as far back as 1936 with one of them, Theo Middelkamp, being their first stage winner that same year, and the last one, Lars Boom, having ended a nine-year drought in stage 5 to Arenberg via some spectacular cobblestone sections. Eighteen different Dutch riders have worn the yellow jersey since Wim van Est took it in 1951. The last one was Erik Breukink in 1989.

 

School children from Utrecht have been able to learn more about current and former Dutch cycling champions as they helped to inaugurate the press center along with Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme, the mayor of Utrecht Jan van Zanen and former riders Bernard Hinault and Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle. For the first time in the history of the race, a press conference was held exclusively for children who could ask questions to Tour de France participants Kelderman and Gesink from LottoNL-Jumbo, Koen de Kort, Ramon Sinkeldam and Roy Curvers from Giant-Alpecin, as well as female cyclist Marianne Vos who was introduced to them as an “enormous hero”.

 

“It’s definitely special for me to start the Tour de France in my home country”, explained De Kort who drove to Utrecht with his father like when he was a young cyclist. “I was born in Gouda, on the route of stage 2 but I grew up near ‘s-Hertogenbosch. I probably wouldn’t have become a cyclist if it wasn’t because the 1996 Tour de France started in my town. Pretty much everyone I know will be on the course this coming week-end. Unfortunately, we’ll be racing without Marcel Kittel this year but I’ll still have a job as a lead-out man for our sprinter John Degenkolb. I’ll share it with Sinkeldam, we’ll discuss daily what our role will be.”

 

The whole Giant-Alpecin team anticipated the children’s press conference with a 45-minute ride together with 150 fans in and around Utrecht in a sunny and friendly atmosphere. The host city is all fired up for the Grand Départ.

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