2014 Team Previews: Lotto-Belisol

lottob

Who are the sponsor? Lotto is the Belgian national lottery, Belisol make windows and doors in Belgium.

Nationality: Belgian

2013 Ranking: 18th

Past Stars: Cadel Evans, Philippe Gilbert, Robbie McEwen, Chris Horner

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Selected Team Palmares: Stages, Tour de France, (Andre Greipel x 5, 2011, 2012×3, 2013,  Jelle Vanendert, 2011), Stages, Giro d’Italia (Andre Greipel x 2, 2008, 2010, Bart de Clerq, 2011, Lars Bak, 2012, Adam Hansen, 2013.), Stages, Vuelta a Espana (Andre Greipel x4, 2009×4) Tour down Under 2008+2010 (Andre Greipel)

Brief Team History: The Lotto boys have been around since 1985, and in recent years, where characterised by an Australian core – Robbie McEwen, who took a couple of his green jerseys at the Belgian outfit, and Cadel Evans, who came to the squad after the T-Mobile experiment fell through. At the time, Lotto were sponsored by Omega Pharma, who marketed their products as the team name, so we thus has Davitamon-Lotto, (vitamins), Predictor-Lotto (Pregnancy tests) and Silence-Lotto (sleeping pills) for the team. When Cadel Evans won the Worlds, the company seemed to spot a chance, and promptly announced the team would be called Omega Pharma from the next year, obviously sensing that having ‘Omega Pharma’ on the world champions jersey would be a good marketing coup. Unfortunately, it never happenned, as Evans left for BMC, and they had to ;make do’ with the HTC second string sprint train joining. Luckily, it turned out Greipel and co were pretty good, but not as good as new prized possession Philippe Gilbert, who was fantastic for them in 2011. Unfortunately, he too jumped ship to BMC, and then in a move to make the sport very confusing for casual viewers, Omega Pharma themselves jumped ship to rivals Quick Step, citing ‘differences of direction’ as both teams claimed they wanted to produce a ‘Belgian cycling project with international appeal’. Hmm. Newly built behind Van den Broeck and Greipel, the newly named Lotto-Belisol had high hopes for 2012, and managed to deliver thanks to three stages for Greipel at the Tour as well as getting the attacking Van den Broeck to 4th place.

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Last year: For a Belgian team, it was really all about one man – the German Andre Greipel. He won them a stage at the Tour again, and had a good go at the green jersey, and wrapped up another 13 wins in the year. Adam Hansen rode in atrocious conditions to continue the teams record of a stage win every year at the Giro in recent years, and this was after Jurgen Roelandts had ridden to a surprising 3rd place at the Tour of Flanders. The GC  department failed to show up however – a horrific knee injury took out Van den Broeck, and Vanendert and De Clerq couldnt really step up to fill the void.

Transfer dealings: They’ve been quite busy, mainly cleaning out ageing riders for fresher young Belgians, but they have also added some quality in Maxime Monfort and Tony Gallopin, who could give them the edge in the hilly races as well as giving Van den Broeck some workhorses in the mountains.

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Who are the star riders?  The ‘Gorilla’ Andre Greipel is the star of the show these days, led out by Greg Henderson at the end of Lotto’s formidable sprint train. The GC department now comprises double 4th place Tour finisher Jurgen Van den Broeck, strong man Maxime Monfort and Tour stage winner at Jelle Vanendert, with Bart De Clerq capable of putting in a good show. Then theres Aussie strong man Adam Hansen, a successor to Jens Voigt perhaps, and classics/sprint rider Jurgen Roelandts. Tony Gallopin joins from RadioShack to add some Ardene classics aggression.

Fashion Police: A bold departure from the 2012-2013 designs, and one that has gone down well – the classic look devoid of any dressing up is a winner, even if the backs ‘live your dreams’ message is a tad corny. Greipel’s German champion kit is great to.

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What are their targets? More of the same really – Greipel will keep going for stage wins at the Tour, although he says he’ll only go for Green if he rides into it, not targeting it specifically. Van den Broeck will hope to finally get on the Tour podium, and possibly head to the Vuelta again afterwards, whilst Roelandts will want to prove his Flanders result was no fluke.

What are they likely to achieve? If Greipel keeps ticking along nicely no one will really care, so it’s all about the Tour and Van den Broeck, who, if he can get back into his 2012 form, should have a very real chance on being the first Belgian on a Grand Tour podium since De Gendt in 2012, and at the Tour since Lucien Van Impe in 1981.

Andre Greipel

Components: Lotto ride Ridley bikes, and use Campagnolo and Deda components, which makes them very Euro, as does their Lazer helmets and Vermarc kit.

The Big Question(s): Can Van den Broeck get onto the Tour podium? Will Greipel’s win rate keep going?

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