One of my pet projects/recurring themes at this site is talking about how the entire sport is about to be taken over by a Golden Generation of Dutch racers. Oh, I'm sure Spaniards, Flemings and Italians will squeeze out a few results along the way, so resistance isn't completely futile... but it's close. Anyway, I catalogued the roster of awesome young Dutch talent back in April, and figured that the current state of peace makes it a good time to check back in.
First off, some numbers: the Netherlands ranks seventh in the CQ country rankings, roughly the same position it has held for the last several years. Young talent is all well and good, but the most established riders from Holland right now are guys like Karsten Kroon, Steven DeJongh, and Joost Posthuma. The Future isn't now for the Golden Generation, or wasn't, during 2008, but can you see it coming? To wit (material from April in ital):
- 23 years old, took 18th at Flanders and 2nd at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this spring. He rode the classics aggressively and looks like someone who can be a useful teammate in a grand tour as well.
- Since: He had some nice time trial results, 20th at Catalunya and 14th at the Tour de Luxembourg chrono. Otherwise, lots of teamwork. Rabo have a nice squad coming together, but if he's to become a leader in the classics, he'll have to earn it internally.
- all of 21, finished third in a stage of the Castilla y Leon tour and sixth overall. On the kids' circuit last year he won the Tour de l'Avenir. A climber, I think?
- Since: Yep, a climber. He shadowed Linus Gerdemann around the DeutschlandTour, riding solidly throughout the mountains and taking 7th overall (chrono efforts need work). He also ran 15th in the Vuelta a Burgos, and competed in the Italian fall races. Off to a solid start.
- 24, exploded on the cobbles scene this spring in his very first year riding at the top level, taking an unbelievable 4th at Roubaix, 12th in Flanders, and 4th in Monte Paschi Eroica. He's already Slipstream's designated Flanders rider.
- Since: Rode the Tour de France, generally did teamwork. Given his age, Garmin are smart to let him race a large chunk of the season without pressure. Am wondering if Garmin are going to build more of a spring squad? A healthier Backstedt should take some pressure off. Can Svein Tuft hit the cobbles? Can Hans Dekkers? Bears watching. JV has a gem in Maaskant, but he can't win races like Flanders on his own.
- 23, took 14th at de Ronde, 4th at Dreidaagse de Panne, won the DeutschlandTour KOM jersey last year, and has a handful of top-10 time trial performances.
- Since: Took third in the Bayern Rundfahrt on the strength of his time trial ride, where he beat guys like Bert Grabsch. Sprinted for 5th at Veenendaal. Then rode the Tour de Suisse and Tour de France, a nice learning experience. He's a ways away from competing in grand tours, but Milram are actually, finally building a stage race team around Linus Gerdemann and the Fothens, so Terpstra should have room to grow.
- Only 21(!), has been scoring points for almost a year now: 2nd in the '07 Polish Tour, 5th in the DeutschlandTour, 10th at the highly-rated Giro dell'Emilia, 15th at the Giro di Lombardia, leader of the 2008 Paris-Nice before slipping to 4th, and 21st-4th-13th in Ardennes last week. His climbing ability screams "grand tour," though his skills and time trialing will need some polishing before he can challenge the greats. If he pulls that off, the sky is the limit.
- Since: Finished the season ranked 15th overall, a brilliant result for someone his age, or anyone else. He's already a captain at Rabobank, taking 7th on GC at the Vuelta a Espana, the top-ranked foreigner after Levi. Don't be shocked if he pushes Denis Menchov aside for full captaincy this year. Oh, and for some reason, when he puts on the national kit, he always finishes tenth. Olympic RR: 10th. Olympic ITT: 10th. Worlds RR: 10th. Can I get a bet down next time?
- Still only 23 despite four seasons under his belt, is already an undisputed star: defending champion of the Tour de Romandie and 2006 Tirreno-Adriatico winner; a current season that includes 3rd in the Pais Vasco, 3rd Castilla y Leon, and 5th-5th-6th in the Ardennes; and time trialing ability that gives him the look of a Tour de France future winner.
- Since: Exiled for reasons that still aren't completely clear. Dekker's subtraction from Rabobank is Gesink's gain, but TD is the superior time trialist. If things work out at Silence-Lotto, and this whole episode doesn't turn into a doping matter (as has been rumored at times), then he'll probably go straight to the head of the class. And won't it just be typical Rabobank if Dekker is the one guy out of this talent wave to win big?
- Shoulda added him before, though he's a ripe old 26. Anyway, Clement's calling card is the time trial. Ninth in Beijing, 22nd in Varese, but he ended on a high note winning the Chrono des Nations over guys like Pinotti, Gusev, etc. His 3rd in the Romandie ITT was actually even more impressive, beating these two and Martin, Larsson, Menchov, etc. Clement can climb a bit too, so he probably joins the Rabo Ardennes squad as a helper to Gesink.
Laurens Ten Dam
- Another guy missing earlier, probably because he's already 28. Still, 20th in the Tour?!? Tenth in the Tour de Suisse? Obviously he wasn't captaining anything at Rabobank this season, but he may get his chance if and when they're not working for Menchov or Gesink. He showed strong in places like the Klausenpass and Hautacam, so his pedigree is clear.
- Like just about every continental rider, I'm not overly familiar with him. But he just won the Dutch national championship road race... and the time trial. Chew on that sentence for a moment. Turns 23 in late December. Good sweet Christ, is there any wonder why he just got kicked up to the Rabo senior squad from the development team?
- A sprinter perhaps? Another seriously young kid, 23, just picked up by Rabo at the Gerolsteiner yard sale.
- Track kid, coming to the road. See Gavia's profile (of Bos, not Gavia). Anyway, missing from this Golden Generation was a pure sprinter, so the 25-y.o. Bos slots in nicely. Since he's coming from an entirely different discipline, fans will have to be patient with his development, but still.