Team LottoNL-Jumbo ends the 71st edition of the Vuelta a España with a victory of Robert Gesink in the queen stage and a tenth place of George Bennett in the overall standings. The last stage in Madrid was won by Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica - Bike Exchange). George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo crossed the line as 29th. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the final standings holding off Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica - Bike Exchange).
Team LottoNL-Jumbo can look back on a successful Vuelta. After the setback in the first week where the team saw its captain Steven Kruijswijk literally disappear, the team had to push back the ambitions for a classification a shifted to stage victories.
"The crash of Steven Kruijswijk was a huge disappointment for us," said Sports Director Addy Engels. "We came with ambitions for the general classification at the Vuelta losing the leader of the team was hard. Also the loss of Enrico Battaglin, who like Steven fell in fifth stage, hurt the team a lot."
Sports Director Jan Boven adds. "After Steven’s loss we directly sat down with each other and re-defined the strategy. It took some time for the riders to get used to their new roles, but they have taken it quiet well and accomplished their tasks good. We as sports directors are very pleased with the results. If you win a stage and have a rider in the top ten in the standings and also rode offensive and attractive at the stages then you can be happy."
In the second and third week of the Vuelta LottoNL-Jumbo rode an offensive race with Robert Gesink. The new role of Gesink paid off with a couple of podium places and a stage victory.
“This is how I wanted to ride in the Tour but the season turned out differently," said Robert Gesink. "Maybe it's something to do in the future. The game to get into the decisive escape, choosing the right day and time to attack is difficult. I have learned a lot in this Vuelta and I know where I can improve on while on the attack. I'm happy with the performance here."
After the crash of Steven Kruijswijk the team management gave his domestic George Bennett the opportunity to have a shot at the general classification.
"I never expected this. A top ten in a big Tour. I am very happy,” said an enthusiastic Bennett. "I was here to work for Steven. After Steven crashed out I started living for the GC per day. Robert Gesink took me by my arm. Also Tankink and Van Emden did. They have a lot of experience. Especially Robert shared his knowledge with me how to tackle a classification. Again, I’m over the moon."
The 71st edition of the Vuelta was hard. The many vertical metres (54.013m), the heat and arrivals uphill made this Vuelta one of the toughest in history.
But also the way of racing," Bram Tankink adds. “There was only one day there was no fighting from the start to get away. Thirty, sometimes forty kilometres long battles to be in the break. I did 16 grand tours but this one was physically quite possibly the hardest of all. We were smart and did tactically well with Robert and George. We used all the opportunities there were."
At a personal level were also boundaries pushed, as rookie Koen Bouwman told about the physical pain in the Vuelta. "I'm totally empty. Every day you step back on the bike and hope for a good day. I experienced one day that I was dropped and drove between the cars in the caravan. Other riders came to get water bottles and got back to the peloton. I had never experienced this before. But I managed to get to Madrid and I will benefit from that. I am glad I have finish a Grand Tour. Its in the legs now."
For Victor Campenaerts the Vuelta went as desired. The Belgian time trial champion played a crucial role in the team and did a lot of work for team leader Robert Gesink and also rode a good time trial in Calpe.
Turn the key
"The shape was good when I came to the Vuelta," said the Belgian. "We stood not long still after the loss of Steven. We had to adapt and turn the key. That’s sport. I had put my mind on the trial to Calpe. I finished fifth a good performance at the end of a Grand Tour."
For Martijn Keizer the Vuelta went differently than expected. “I was going as a domestic of Steven to the Vuelta," he said. "We were going to do the same as in the Giro with Steven. But after five days, that role falls away. If you then can not do what you want, you need to do something else. It is precisely this flexibility we have shown here with Robert and George. I myself was once in a break, all the other days I have sacrificed me for the team."