With a recent run of World Tour wins under their belt, and an overall strong early season going, the Bianchi-powered Lotto NL-Jumbo Team could hardly have had higher spirit heading into the 101st Giro d’Italia, starting on Friday May 4th in Jerusalem (Israel) to end in Rome (Italy) after 21 stages and 3562,9 km.
After ending last year’s edition on a high, with Jos Van Emden’s stage win in the closing time trial in Milan with Bianchi Aquila CV, the Dutch outfit will try for more in the 2018 edition, fielding a well-rounded line up that ticks all the boxes, built to show off on a daily basis.
George Bennett (New Zealand), Robert Gesink (Netherlands), Danny Van Poppel (Netherlands), Koen Bouwman (Netherlands), Jos Van Emden (Netherlands), Gijs Van Hoecke (Belgium), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Netherlands) and Enrico Battaglin (Italy) will be the eight men at the start in Israel, riding Bianchi Oltre XR4, Specialissima and time-trial model Aquila CV.
LINE-UP AND GOALS
New Zealander George Bennett, 28, starts the Giro with the leader’s grades after a breakout year in 2017, when he won the overall classification at the Amgen Tour of California. He was also featuring prominently at the Tour de France, sitting inside the top-10 before illness forced him to abandon the race. His GT credentials has already showed at the 2016 Vuelta a España, when he had finished 10th overall, becoming the first ever rider from New Zealand to achieve such feat. Coming off a strong showing at the Tour of the Alps, where he was fifth overall and runner-up in two stages in spite of an unfortunate road accident on the eve of the race, Bennett looks to square off again against the top rivals on the mountain in his second Giro start.
Another former Amgen Tour of California winner, Robert Gesink will be making his second Giro start at age 31, but his GT track record is there to show why LottoNL-Jumbo counts on him as a stage hunter in a demanding Giro. After his standout 6th place overall at the 2015 Tour de France, Gesink had to face two injury-challenged seasons, but he still managed to record his maiden GT stage win at the 2016 Vuelta a España, on the Col d’Aubisque and graze another big one at the 2017 Tour de France, ending 2nd in stage 7, the day before crashing out of the race with a broken vertebra. Now back in his physical strengths, the Dutchman is sure to have a shot in long-distance attacks in demanding stages.
When the stage profile is flatter, then it is when Danny Van Poppel, 24, comes into discussion. The younger son of former sprinter Jean-Paul Van Poppel followed the steps of his parent and will be LottoNL-Jumbo’s card for the mass finishes, in the quest to add to his 2015 Vuelta a España stage win, his only GT win to date. It will be only the fourth Grand Tour participation for the young Dutchman, and the first at the Giro d’Italia. On January 31st, on his first race day with a LottoNL-Jumbo jersey and Bianchi Oltre XR4, he managed to celebrate his first (and, so far, only) win of the season in Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
The most experienced rider in the line-up, Dutchman Jos Van Emden (33), also ties Enrico Battaglin for the most Giro d’Italia starts, with six already under his belt – and as many finishes. His best day in the Corsa Rosa arguably came on the very last stage of the 2017 edition, when he secured the most important of his 10 career wins by taking the final time trial from Monza to Milan (that also earned him the “Man of the Duomo” nickname). Since he has joined forces with Bianchi Aquila CV, Van Emden has turned into a consistent TT threat, counting numerous notable victories and placements, and lining up among the contenders for an early Maglia Rosa stint in Israel, as the race will be opened by a 9,7 km individual time trial.
Also starting his seventh participation, Enrico Battaglin (28) has two Giro stages to his name already, and will be the sole Italian representative of the LottoNL-Jumbo team, forming an all-Italian pair with his Bianchi rides. A solid stage hunter himself, Battaglin has also evolved into an important team player and support to the Dutch team’s leaders, as showed in Steven Kruijswijk’s pink jersey bid in 2016. With his last Giro win being dated 2014, Enrico is sure to give a shot to another joy, both in breakaways and using his late kick – a skill he has often shown in reduced sprint finishes with his Oltre XR4.
28-year-old Dutchman Bert-Jan Lindeman also boasts a stage win to his name, having succeeded out of a breakaway in La Alpujarra mountain finish in 2015 Vuelta a España. In his second Giro d’Italia start, Lindeman has the skills to excel both as a solid domestique and long-run breakaway option.
In his Giro d’Italia debut after two Vuelta a España participations, Koen Bouwman (24) looks to further establish among the most exciting climbing sensations of the moment, already having a Criterium du Dauphiné stage win to his name and coming off consistent showings on the mountains at the Tour of the Alps. Like in the dress rehearsal to this Giro, Bouwman is expected to play a key role for Bennett’s GC ambitions, while making an invaluable learning experience to nurture future dreams on his own.
Belgian Gijs Van Hoecke will be making his very first Grand Tour start at age 26. A classic rouleur that does not mind racing in headwind and tough weather, Van Hoecke will look to keep LottoNL-Jumbo’s protected riders out of trouble in the most frantic moments of each stage.
THE LOTTO NL-JUMBO’S BIANCHI BIKES
As in previous years, LottoNL-Jumbo will not run short of options when it comes to choosing their Bianchi bikes to face each Giro effort.
The trusted mate of LottoNL-Jumbo throughout the season, Oltre XR4 was developed with CFD software and tested in the wind tunnel to reduce the aerodynamic drag, to make it Bianchi’s ultimate aero road racing machine. The dedicated tuning process of the Bianchi CV System, using patented Countervail carbon material, maximizes aero advantage and control at high speeds, making it a key weapon of the powerful sprints of Dylan Groenewegen, as well as the solo breaks of Primoz Roglic.
When the race gets on the highest mountains, Specialissima will be the ultralight option for the LottoNL-Jumbo climbers to pursue glory on the Giro peaks.
Aquila CV is the Bianchi time trial machine that has proved a lethal weapon in the hands of LottoNL-Jumbo riders in the races against the time. Aquila CV is the revolutionary time trial machine engineered with Bianchi CV system and designed to provide more energy and more control in the riding action, perfected with the support of the LottoNL-Jumbo and riders, undergoing advanced wind tunnel testing to reach the ultimate aero performance.