After Giro performance, LottoNL hopes to keep Kruijswijk

MILAN (VN) — Dutch WorldTour team LottoNL – Jumbo says it wants to keep Steven Kruijswijk in its yellow and black colors after he showed he could win the Giro d’Italia last month.

The 28-year-old Dutchman held a three-minute lead in the race before losing his advantage due to a crash midway into the penultimate mountain stage on the Giro’s highest pass, the Colle dell’Agnello, at 2,744 meters. He slipped to third after that stage and, despite a strong fight, finished fourth overall behind winner Vincenzo Nibali of Astana. After five days in the pink jersey, his market value has soared.

“Hopefully we can keep Kruijswijk in the team for 2017,” LottoNL general manager Richard Plugge said.

“He is clearly one of our leaders. We gave him a chance to do what he wants to do. He came back from his surgery and had his chance in the Giro d’Italia. We already told him that we want to continue with him even before the Giro result.”

Kruijswijk had two surgeries on the femoral artery in his leg, the second in 2013, but has steadily improved in grand tours. In the 2014 Tour de France, he placed 15th. He was ninth in the 2011 Giro and seventh in 2015. After his crash a few weeks ago, he went from having a three-minute lead to finishing fourth overall at 1:50 back. Kruijswijk’s ride caught the attention of worldwide media and rival teams.

“That’s always the game, that someone could make a bigger offer. He knows he is an undisputed leader in our team. That’s valuable for a rider,” Plugge said.

“For sure, he could have won the Giro without that crash. He was with the best on the top of the Agnello. He only needed to follow the two guys, they were working to get Alejandro Valverde off the podium. The plan worked out perfectly until his crash.”

Kruijswijk has been with the team for 10 years, first with its development Rabobank squad and then as a professional from 2010. His current contract ends at the close of 2016.

LottoNL, however, does not have deep pockets and must choose wisely. It is one of the small fish in the WorldTour pond, with a budget of $14.8 million, compared to top teams like Sky ($34.9 million). The team also has Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman, and Sep Vanmarcke on its roster. American Alexey Vermeulen joined this year.

Kruijswijk could earn around $2 million annually. If he stays with LottoNL, that could dictate whether the team renews with Kelderman or Vanmarcke. Vanmarcke, however, is already reportedly leaving. Gesink has renewed already for 2017.

“The Giro changed a lot of things for him,” Kruijswijk’s agent Orlando van den Bosch said. “Before the Giro, he was on teams’ radars, now he is one of the key men that a team will base its budget around. First, he needs to decide his path, if he wants to race for the Tour or the Giro next year, then it’s easy for us to find the team where he fits best.”

Later in June, van den Bosch and Kruijswijk will talk about their plan and which teams to approach. “If he stays with LottoNL – Jumbo, then there has to be changes with support riders, but Steven says that he is also open to new teams,” van den Bosch said.

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