Interview - Danny van Poppel impressed by new team LottoNL-Jumbo
Jan 30 2018 01:43 pm CET

Interview - Danny van Poppel impressed by new team LottoNL-Jumbo
Interview - Danny van Poppel impressed by new team LottoNL-Jumbo
Photo of Danny van Poppel © Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com

After two years at Team Sky, Danny van Poppel returns to his Dutch roots at LottoNL-Jumbo. CyclingPub.com spoke with the sprinter during the team's training camp at the Costa Blanca in Spain.

The 24-year-old struggled a bit in 2017 but has plenty to look forward to in the season that is ahead of us. His plan is to take part in the Giro d'Italia and make his first grand tour appearance since 2015, but that is not his only goal for the first half of the 2018 campaign.

We met Van Poppel at the team's hotel in Spain, following an exploration ride in preparation for the Team Time Trial of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, which the rider will start his season at.

How has your off-season been?

It's been good. I've rested well and I'm ready for a new start. But it's going so fast and it's almost time to race again.

You have joined a new team after two years at Sky. How are you liking it so far?

I'm liking it a lot. It's all Dutch and not too complicated, which is always nice. Being Dutch, it's easier for me in training and other small things.

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Danny van Poppel, LottoNL-Jumbo (Spain 2018)

What about the team culture, do you see clear differences? For example in the way the plans are made?

I think they do a great job at that. They made a whole plan with me and with everybody else, asking what we want, what our wishes are. You already know in December or January which races you're going to ride, which is great. That's very helpful for a rider.

Was that a bit less clear at your previous team?

We did know a bit but we didn't know the exact details, like training camps and grand tours. But here, also because I'm one of the leaders, it's very clear where I'm going to ride, what I'm going to do and what the goals are, which is great.

Do you think that those two years at Sky taught you something?

I did learn things of course, a lot. But I see that I can still learn a lot here as well.

What about the bikes, Bianchi. How are you liking them?

They are very good. In 2013 I rode on them for a year as well and now I will use them again. They are great. I hadn't expected them to be this good. I am no equipment freak but you do of course feel it. I am very satisfied.

Then about 2017. How do you look back on the season?

It was a bad year for me. I had injuries and bad luck. Then things finally looked up again, riding the Tour de Pologne and the BinckBank Tour and finally returning to my old level, and then I barely rode anything else during the rest of the season. The World Championships and then China, where I wasn't that motivated anymore as I was already looking forward to this year. It was simply a season to forget quickly. I saved it in Poland and the BinckBank Tour but apart from that it was bad.

Looking forward then, do you already know a bit more about your plans for 2018, apart from the Giro and the Vuelta?

Yes. I will start here in Valencia, Abu Dhabi, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, which is really a race I dream of winning. It really suits my qualities. Then training at altitude for the Giro, so I have a lot to look forward to.

What do you think you're capable of in a race like Milan-San Remo?

I know I can handle the race. If I'm in a good shape I can do well there. Last year I wasn't as good and ended up working for the team, winning with (Michal) Kwiatkowski. So I know what it is like to win there as a team. But I believe in myself, that I can be there in the final.

You had said that you would focus a bit less on the classics, right? Or is that temporary?

Well, I'll focus less on the Belgian classics. I will ride two; Gent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen I think, but that's it. I won't do the opening weekend or the Tour of Flanders.

Then the Giro. How do you look at that race after two years in which you didn't take part in grand tours?

In 2015 I won a stage in the Vuelta, and I really liked riding a grand tour. I really look forward to it and I know how special it is to be part of such a selection. At Sky the chances were slim and the opportunity I get now, also getting two guys to help me in the sprint, is something to get used to. It's very cool.

You already know which teammates will help you, right?

Yes, (Robert) Wagner will be with me for a big part of the season and Jos (van Emden) will be there at the Giro. Gijs Van Hoecke will be there. So it's a nice group. Right now we also train a lot together, to avoid getting to the race without knowing each other. The team does a really good job at that.

So you kind of have two different teams within the team; one for Dylan Groenewegen and one for you?

That's right. Some people ask me whether I will be a lead-out for Dylan and whether we will ride together but that won't be the case. That was all discussed before I joined here.

And what are your ambitions for the Giro?

My goal there is to win a stage. That would be very nice. It has been a while since I last rode a grand tour and I never did the Giro, so I'm really curious.

And then you might do the Vuelta later in the year?

Probably. It's not entirely certain yet but it does look that way.

You come from quite a cycling family. How do you think that has influenced you at the start of your career?

I often notice that things are very normal for me, all those things around cycling. I don't know any better. That may be the big difference.

Has the advice of your relatives been helpful?

Yes, although that time has passed a bit now. Cycling is different from when my father was active, of course. I have good people around me and I learned some things in the mean time. But at the beginning, definitely.

What about things that are still the same, such as dealing with people recognizing you on the street. Has it helped you in any way in that respect?

I have kind of been in the spotlight since I was a child. I did have to get used to it a bit in the last few years but you learn to deal with it. It's not always fun but it's part of it.

In which way would you say it's not that nice?

For example in Belgium, where cycling is very popular. You may just want to go and buy some bread and in the village everybody knows you. But they mean well and most of the time it's not a problem.

So you live in Belgium now?

I've lived there all my life, in a town appropriately called Poppel, at about 15 kilometers from Tilburg (in the Netherlands), where my family is from. So the choice to move there was easily made for my father.

Next to your goals for the Giro and Milan-San Remo, what would you say is your big goal for this season?

I often have ups and downs in a season, also because of injuries which caused a lot of downs. This year I would like to stay at a steady level. That's a bit of a goal, for me to do well in every race.

By Jonathan Roorda




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