|Will the orange team be able to relive the world title of Harm Ottenbros on the same circuit in Zolder Belgium? In 1969, totally unexpected Ottenbros finished first in the race for the rainbow jersey, leaving behind Belgian Julien Stevens and Italian Michele Dancelli. The race then too was expected to be a race for sprinters and sprinters only. But after 45 k. a breakaway group took off, a group without most of the sprinters. Belgian Stevens was told by his head coach to try and work something out with, for instance, Ottenbros who was too present in the leading group. Stevens kept his mouth shut, thinking he would beat Ottenbros when it would come to a sprint. Once miscalculation with only a silver medal as a result. Which card the Dutch team will play on Sunday...some of the main players:
For this job the Dutch team is coming fully armed to Zolder. Since the course is as flat as can be, coach Gerrie Knetemann decided to aim at good results with sprinter-type riders. Seen in that light the first choice was Rabobank sprinter Steven de Jongh. He showed already some good results so far this season, preparing himself in Ruend um den Flughafen Koeln Bonn and Schaal Sels. Winning both races on courses a little less flat as the one in Zolder he kept his form throughout the last months. In Zolder he will be accompanied by his faithfull teammates Jan Boven (earned his selection in Paris-Tours) and Bobbie Traksel. The young Dutch redhead himself stands a good chance in a sprinting finale. He rode the course several times for preparation and has good feelings about it. Bobbie Traksel made his professional debut last year at the age of nineteen. Only two other cyclists had previously made the switch at such a young age: Danny Nelissen (currently working for Eurosport as a commentator at cycling races) and Jacques Hanegraaf (former team director at TVM). The idea was to let Traksel gradually mature among the pros. But the planned development-line was immediately broken due to a fall in March, a fall where Traksel broke ten ribs. The rest of Traksel's season was subsequently dominated by his efforts to catch up. This season he plans to prove that his place in the professional team of Rabobank is justified, which seams to be going as planned whilst winning the Dutch semi-classic Veenendaal-Veenendaal, a stage in the Sachsen Tour and a stage in the Ster Elektrotour.
Jan Boven is a well known helping hand in the Rabobank-team and will now too be in the Worlds Team in Zolder. He has proved himself a stayer in the Rabo-team. The modest man from the northern part of the Netherlands alsways sets himself aside for the team, doing this without complaining. In this he now has become invaluable. Jan Boven is not only a hard worker, a thing of which his teammates are very aware, he too has a down to earth no nonsense character which helps him to keep both feet on the ground and earning his rightful place in the team.
After Paris-Tours headcoach Gerrie Knetemann added next to Jan Boven too Servais Knaven and Max van Heeswijk of the Domoteam to the already selected. For the last one this will be a good chance to try and find a new team, since he has so far no new contract for next season.
The presence of Rabobankriders is as every year more than clear. Besides Traksel, De Jongh and Boven Knetemann selected Tour de France stage winners Michael Boogerd and Karsten Kroon.
Michael Boogerd probably is one of the well known Dutch riders. Being more a climber than a rider who does well on such flat courses as Zolder, his selection came a bit out of the blue. This year the eager man from The Hague won a mountain stage with finish on La Plagne in the Tour de France, a win which did his nervousness a world of good. Last year he finished 10th in the same major three weeks stage race. In February already he won the Tour of Mallorca, did well in Valencia, won a stage in the Tirreno Adriatico and won the Fleche Brabanconne. At last year's Worlds in Lisbon he too performed at a good level, followed by a third place in the World Cup race in Lombardia.
Plouay 2002, Tour de France, Karsten Kroon surprises himself and the world in winning a stage in the Tour. He is showing excellent development as a young cyclist. He himself gained a position in the main team as far as one day races are concerned. In the GP Gippingen he proved his class in winning this Swiss race with reputation. In both the Giro and the Vuelta he wore the King of The Mountains jersey. In this season so far he encountered some bad luck in meeting over and over with the asphalt.
One of the main men in the Dutch team will be sprinter Steven de Jongh. He is a cyclist to be taken seriously. In classic one day races he is in his element. He can count on a mean final kick when it comes to a massive sprint. Last he he preceded his teammate Traksel in winning the semi-classic Veenendaal-Veenendaal for the second time in a row. This year as said in preparation he won amongst others Ruend um den Flughafen Koeln Bonn and Schaal Sels.
From the other Dutch team Bankgiroloterij both Bart Voskamp and Bram Schmitz are selected to ride the race on Sunday. Bart Voskamp has had a great season so far with winning both the Tour of Belgium and the Ster Elektro Toer and finishing second in the Tour du Luxembourg. He has a long list of achievements, from winning a stage in the Tour de France to win the national championships timetrial. This year he seems to have started a second youth and a second part of his cycling career and proved himself a valuable member of the team and a teacher to his younger teammates.
One of this younger teammates is Bram Schmitz. The youngster rode a great Amstel Gold Race, riding in the front almost all day and winning the most combative award in this Dutch World Cup race. He kept on surprising everyone and most of all himself in, for instance, winning the timetrial in the Ster Elektro Toer and finishing second in this stage race.
Another one who is currently still out of contract and has good cards for a sprinting course like Zolder is former Dutch champion Jans Koerts. He already showed his strength in various stages in the Vuelta and some weeks ago did a great sprinting job in the Championships of Flandres in Koolskamp. Current Dutch champion and Lotto-rider Stefan van Dijk can match his strength with Koerts, since he won at the same circuit in Nijmegen his red-white and blue jersey. He is accompanied by his teammate Aart Vierhouten, who exchanged his Rabobankcolours some years ago and now is the faithful helper of Robbie McEwen when it comes to massive sprints. McEwen won the Delta Profronde for instance with two fingers up his nose due to the never ending hard work of the man from Oud-Turnhout. Vierhouten is one who can do well on the Worlds and showed this already in the race for the rainbow jersey in San Sebastian.
Steven de Jongh
Max van Heeswijk
Stefan van Dijck
Paul van Schalen
Both Servais Knaven and Paul van Schalen did surprisingly well at the Dutch timetrial championships. The Axa-rider Paul van Schalen, before the start in Zaltbommel, aimed for a place amongst the first ten, and proved himself very happy in winning the bronze medal. Since the Netherlands are only allowed to send two timetrialers to the Worlds, he at first after the selection was not to compete. When national champion Erik Dekker decided to give his forfeit, the man from Arnhem was asked to wear the orange jersey on Thursday in the race from Hasselt to Zolder.
The other Dutch rider to compete in the timetrail will be Servais Knaven. This rider from Domo proved himself in winning Paris-Roubaix. In the national championships timetrial he finished second behind Erik Dekker.