Australian Michael Matthews has just missed out on a podium finish at his maiden Tour of Flanders, won by unfancied Italian Alberto Bettiol.
For Stage 2, I’m focusing on the fortunes on Team LottoNL-Jumbo – the only Dutch-owned WorldTour team – and their chances of winning tonight’s 190-kilometre stage from Arnhem to Nijmegen. Enjoy!
Who are their sponsors?
Lotto is the Dutch national lottery – the letters NL have been added to prevent confusion with the Belgian lottery, who also sponsor a team (Lotto-Soudal).
Jumbo is a chain of supermarkets based in the Netherlands. It’s not difficult to deduce from their list of sponsors that this is the most explicitly Dutch of the teams in the UCI WorldTour, with 17 riders of their 30-rider team roster coming from the land of tulips and windmills.
Rider for today’s stage
Tonight’s stage will be 190 kilometres from the Dutch town of Arnhem to Nijmegen. As one might expect from a stage in the Netherlands, the route profile is very flat, aside from a single fourth category climb to Berg-en-Dal placed 34 kilometres from the finish.
There is a risk of crosswinds splitting the bunch – as happened on the first road stage of last year’s Tour de France – but this stage takes place around 100 kilometres further inland than last year’s Tour stage, so that seems less likely for now.
Although LottoNL-Jumbo’s sprinter Moreno Hofland will trade elbows with the likes of André Greipel, Giacomo Nizzolo and Elia Viviani on today’s pancake flat stage (as one might expect from the Netherlands), we’re picking the perennially underrated breakaway tank Maarten Tjallingii (pronounced ‘chal-lingi’) as our rider for today.
He’s made a ten-year pro career out of being a constant presence in the breakaways of big races – that’s how he finished third at Paris-Roubaix in 2011, wore the king of the mountains jersey at the Giro for four days in 2014, and spent 200-plus kilometres at the front of the last three editions of Milan-Sanremo.
Tjallingii’s set to retire from the sport at the end of June, and given that the single climb at Berg-en-Dal at 34 kilometres to go will guarantee the winner at least one day in the blue mountains jersey, we’re betting the farm that the Dutchman will get himself into the breakaway with a view to winning it and getting his Dutch sponsors some valuable TV time into the bargain.
Dutch climber Steven Kruijswijk (pronounced ‘crys-wike’) finished seventh at last year’s Giro d’Italia after going on the attack time and time again, finishing third in the competition for the blue king of the mountains jersey. The Dutchman won a lot of fans for his exploits in Italy last year, and will be the team’s supported leader when the Giro heads into the mountains.
A stage win from a breakaway, and a top ten finish overall for Kruijswijk. Domestique Jos van Emden is also an outside chance for the race’s first two flat time trials, given that he finished fifth in the opening time trial of last year’s Tour de France in Utrecht. The more publicity they can get during the first three stages in their home country, the better.
Reason to cheer
They’re a proudly Dutch team filled with quiet achievers and gritty hardmen, which always goes over well in a race where grit (or grinta in Italian) is a highly prized quality.
Their Bianchi bikes are also distinctive, attractive and proudly Italian, even if their celeste colour isn’t a great combination with the yellow of their jerseys.
Reason to jeer
They’ve been quite short on results this year, and none of the members of the team is an outright star of the sport. Their most exciting prospect – 22-year-old sprinter Dylan Groenewegen – isn’t here this year, but watch out for him in future editions of the Giro.