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91st Giro d'Italia - Team Preview Silence-Lotto
By Bart Hazen
Date: 5/11/2008
91st Giro d'Italia - Team Preview Silence-Lotto

91st Giro d'Italia - Team Preview Silence-Lotto
Captain Robbie McEwen leads the Belgian/Aussie squad heavy in young talent on the hunt for stage victories... and maybe some surprises.

Silence-Lotto will start with a very young team; six of the nine riders are less than 26 years old. The team captain is Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen.

Matthew Lloyd in his Australian Champs jersey with Robbie McEwen to the far left as the team is introduced at the Giro teams presentation.

Wim van Huffel, Matthew Lloyd and Jurgen van den Broeck will ride for a good position on the G.C. Van Huffel finished as 11th in the Giro of 2005 and 17th in 2006. Accompanying the riders is journeyman Nick Gates and youngsters Geert Steurs, Dominique Cornu, Francis de Greef and Dries Devenyns. An introduction to Captain Rock'in Robbie's Giro squad:

Silence/Lotto Giro d'Italia Roster:
· Geert Steurs
· Dominique Cornu
· Francis de Greef
· Dries Devenyns
· Nick Gates
· Matthew Lloyd
· Robbie McEwen
· Jurgen Van den Broeck
· Wim van Huffel

Silence/Lotto Giro Captain, Robbie McEwen introduces his Ridley bike at the team presentation in Palermo.

Robbie McEwen is without doubt one of the fastest guys in the pro peloton; one of the few capable of weaving through his rivals to win without a sprinters train. Despite less sprinters stages in the Giro Robbie as captain, will be on the hunt for stage wins and attention for the teams sponsors. The lingering question is whether McEwen will go to the Tour de France with Silence/Lotto's“project Evans”.

The team will not be satisfied with anything less than Cadel Evans on the top of the podium in July at the finish. With this in mind, even if McEwen gets a berth on the team he will be on his own in the sprints with the team built around supporting Evans quest for the first Australian victory. Not that this would stop Robbie, weighing at the sprinters stages.

McEwen didn’t have a great start in 2008, with his first win coming in the Tour of Romandie. Although the Aussie is off to a late start, one look at his palmares and you'll realize the team can always count on the fast guy to deliver. He has won nine stages in the Giro D’Italia, twelve stages in the Tour de France, three times the Green Jersey in the Tour, lots of stages in the Tour Down Under and many more. Since 2002 he is riding for Lotto. Previous to that he rode for Rabobank and Farm-Frites.

Matthew Lloyd in the Aussie champions jersey climbs le Redoute at Paris - Roubaix only meters behind Cadel Evans with the leaders

Matthew Lloyd is a young and great prospect for the future. He is currently the Australian National Road Champion and can climb very well. He turned pro with Lotto in 2007. He competed in the Giro in 2007 and finished 61st. Lloyd was also 4th in Down Under in his first year with Lotto and 15th in the Tour of Austria. This year as Australian Champion he's shown solid results showing the Australian Jersey well; 7th in the Settimana Coppi & Bartali, 25th in the Amstel Gold Race, 25th in the Fleche Wallonne and 16th in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Wim van Huffel is a Belgian climber, He finished 11th and 17th position overall in that order at the Giro of 2005 and 2006. Wim turned pro in 2002 with Vlaanderen-T Interim, and moved to Lotto in 2005 and continued with the team through it's name changes. His only victory was in 2003 when he won the Hel van het Mergelland. Since 2007 the 28 year old hasn't reached his previous form; despite finishing 25th in the Vuelta.

Stage 1 team time trial: Young team of Silence/Lotto finished with six riders in 22nd place at 1:18 and two riders following at one second.

Another young gun who promises great future is former junior time-trial world champion Jurgen van den Broeck. Van den Broeck is an all-rounder who can do well in stage races. He turned pro in 2004 with US Postal, later Discovery Channel and switched to Lotto in 2007. His best results in his career are 6th in the Tour of Belgium (2004), 8th in the Eneco Tour (2005), 8th in Kuurne-Brussel Kuurne (2006), 6th in the Tour of Denmark (2007). In 2008 his best result is 23rd in the Vuelta a Pais Vasco. This will be Jurgen's second participation in a Grand Tour. Both van Huffel and van den Broeck could surprise in a mountains stage if they are given free reign.

One of the most experienced riders in the team is McEwen’s best friend Nick Gates. 'Gatesy' is one of the “real” helpers of the team. Gates who is 36 years old of age turned pro in 1996. In the same year he became the Australian National Champion which is his most beautiful win.

The team will be completed by the Belgian youngsters and great prospects for the future Geert Steurs, Dominique Cornu, Francis de Greef and Dries Devenyns.

Geert Steurs turned pro in 2007 with Silence-Lotto. Steurs can be of great value for Robbie ambitions for stage wins as he is a quick finisher. Last year he finished 3rd in Nokere Koerse and 21st in Plouay. This year his best result was 9th in La Marseillaise.

Dominique Cornu is perhaps the Belgian with the most talent; at 22 years of age Dominique joined Lotto in 2007. His debut as a pro was a good season for Cornu, finishing 13th in Besseges, 3rd in Dunkerque, 5th at the Belgian TT Championships and 11th at the TT World Championships, certainly showing his all around talent. So far in 2008 he's won a stage in the Giro del Capo. This will be Cornu's debut in a Grand Tour.

Francis de Greef is 23 years old of age and is also more an all-rounder. He joined Lotto in 2008 after riding for Bodysol-Win for Life and Davitamon-Win for Life in the three years before. During this period  with Bodysol he won the Fleche Ardennais twice, the Circuit de Wallonne, two stages and the final ranking in the Vuelta a Lleida, the prologue in the Ronde van Antwerpen and he became the Belgian and Regional Time-Trial Champion of the U23 division.

Last but not least, we introduce you to Dries Devenyns. He is 24 years old, and turned pro with Lotto in 2007. His first year as a pro was one to forget quickly. In the 2007 Ster of Besseges he crashed in one of the stages and broke his left arm. A few weeks later, the day before the Omloop het Volk, he was hit by a car whilst training. Dries suffered a fluid buid up in his brains and was in coma for some time and was off the bike for seven weeks.  Luckily the young rider recovered very well from the accident. Before Devenyns turned pro he won amongst other races: the Ruban Granitier Breton and was twice Belgian TT Champion (u23 and Elite without a contract respectively in 2005 and 2006). This year his best result was a 8th rank overall in the Presidential Tour of Turkey. He will make his debut in a Grand Tour this week in the Giro.

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