Feature: Wilco Kelderman growing into leadership role at Vuelta a España
Aug 29 2017 08:07 pm CET

Feature: Wilco Kelderman growing into leadership role at Vuelta a España
Feature: Wilco Kelderman growing into leadership role at Vuelta a España
Photo of Wilco Kelderman © Team Sunweb

Team Sunweb's Wilco Kelderman is enjoying his role as a team leader in a grand tour. The Dutchman currently sits in 11th place in the GC of the Vuelta a España.

Kelderman finished the ninth stage, to the Cumbre del Sol, in fourth place at only eight seconds from stage winner Chris Froome despite having expected to be "pulled apart," as he told CyclingPub ahead of the start in Orihuela.

The 26-year-old leads the German formation at a grand tour for the first time, having been present in the Giro to support Tom Dumoulin until crashing out of the Italian race.

The role of leader in a big race is something that suits Kelderman. "I like it. I have had this role in the past, in other races. Of course it is a bigger race but it's going well."

The rider feels supported by the team, which also includes climbing talent Sam Oomen who occupies the 12th spot after nine stages.

"Definitely, it's very good. Yesterday (Saturday) I think we were one of the first teams to start the climb in the peloton, and I had a perfect lead-out coming towards the mountain."

Team coach Marc Reef seconds Kelderman's words, saying that he is growing into his role as a leader.

"He is making progress there," he said. "He is getting more vocal and telling his teammates what he expects. The same way he is making progress in the sense of performance, he is doing the same as a leader. For the moment it's going really well. Here he also makes clear what he wants and how he sees things. That's very important towards the other guys, that they know what he wants."

The team faced a difficult decision earlier in the week, choosing to send home Warren Barguil after the Frenchman indicated that he did not see himself as a helper and refused to comply with orders to drop back for Kelderman. This decision was made to ensure total support within the team for its leader.

"As a team, we want to support the general goal. The goal here is to support Wilco as well as we can. Indeed, this may have added to his feeling that we support him."

Reef is happy with the way this Vuelta has developed so far, despite Kelderman having faced some setbacks. "I think the race is going quite well. There has been some bad luck. He fell once and he punctured in Cuenca, where he lost some time at a bad moment.

"Wilco is still fresh. From the moment he abandoned the Giro until the Tour de Pologne he didn't race and only trained. Then he rode in Poland and prepared well for the Vuelta. Normally he should get better throughout the three weeks."




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