18 June 2013

Tour de France 2013: The Teams 3 - Blanco (soon to be Belkin)

The new livery
As much as waiting for the names of the team for Blanco with their new title sponsor coming in for the Tour there is still anticipation about the jersey that these nine will race in when they get to Corsica. For now though here are the names of the nine that will start Belkin's first race.

Bauke Mollema the Dutch 26 year old will be riding in his third Tour, though he failed to finish last year. He is however a promising Grand Tour rider, his debut in the 2010 Giro saw him come 12th, in 2011 he was 4th in the Vuelta picking up the points classification for good measure with a day in the leaders jersey and others in the white combination classification jersey on the way. He heads into this year's Tour off a 2nd place finish in the Tour du Suisse and 4th in the Critérium International. His team are cagey about their expectations for him, but seem to be expecting a top ten finish of some form or other.

Robert Gesink will be charged with marshalling his Dutch compatriot through the mountains. With four top ten Grand Tour finishes himself (Tour 2010, Vuelta 2008, 2009, 2012) he is more that capable of doing such a role or stepping up should something happen to Mollema. He was one of those affected by the cold weather on this year's Giro and withdrew along with other top names after seeming to underperform, though he was suffering from a chest infection.

Lars Boom as well as being the Dutch senior mens cyclo cross champion for the last six years he is also accomplished on the roads*. Indeed he won both the national time trial and road race championships in 2008, he was second in both last year. This year he has already been first in the Ster ZLM Toer earlier this month, with a stage win on day 4. In 2012 he was 6th in Paris-Roubaix using those cyclo-cross skills to good use over the pavé of the 'Hell of the North'. He will be taking part in his fifth Grand Tour having completed the Vuelta in 2009 and 2012, the Tour in 2010. But he crashed out on stage 13 to Lourdes the last time he lined up in Le Tour in 2011.

Laurens ten Dam is a hard man as his continuation in the 2011 Tour after going wide on a bend on stage 15 unto the grass verge and then flipping over his handlebars for a face plant showed. His 2012 Tour, his fourth was less eventful, though his highlight of the year would have been his 8th place finish in the Vuelta.  He is another Dutchman who can climb ably assisting his team leader, but as with Gesink should something unfortunate befall Mollema, it will be a matter of this of the two of them is better placed to take over the leadership of the team.

Tom Leezer will be experiencing the Tour for the first time, though he did complete the 2009 Vuelta but pulled out of the 2012 Giro in his only other Grand Tour appearances. In that Vuelta appearance he did lead the King of Mountrains for two days at the start of the race but he is here as a domestique to take on the role as a supporter to his more fancied team mates.

Lars Petter Nordhaug the Norwegian joined the team this year from Sky and this will be his first appearance in the Tour having appeared in both the other Grand Tours, completing the 2011 Giro, but only managing 7 stages of the 2010 Vuelta. He's another rider who has come from another discipline in this case mountain biking. His biggest win to date was in last year's Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal.

Bram Tankink will act as the road captain for this team. The 34 year old Dutch rider has made a career out of being a team rider with only the odd success such the opening stage of the 2005 Deutschland Tour or smaller one day criterium races. This will however be his 9th Grand Tour, his best result being 35th in the 2011 Giro. This will be his sixth time on the roads around France and he has only failed to arrive in Paris once.

Sep Vanmarcke was second in this year's Paris-Roubaix the only person able to keep up with Fabian Cancellera only to lose out in the velodrome to a 'sprint' finish. This was an amazing performance considering how soon after a crash injured the Belgian's knee in Tirreno-Adriatico. Last year he won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad when he went on the attack not once but twice. He is a classics man but will be used to support the team, though may be given freedom on a day that suits his style to go on the attack.

Finally Maarten Wynarts the second Belgian on this squad. He has shown that he likes to go on the attack. In 2010 he was awarded the compative prize for doing just that on the first stage, going in the first km and not being captured until the last 10. This will be his fifth Grand Tour start and the third in the Tour.

Blanco Belkin will be looking to make an impact in this first Tour under their new sponsor. They may well send Wynarts or Vanmarcke off up the road on the second or third stage while the race is still in Corsica in the hope of catching the peleton napping. But there is no room for Mark Renshaw to they will be not have a man in the mix contesting the bunch sprints.

* Boom has actually been national cyclo-cross champion in his age grouping every year since 2001.

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