LottoNL-Jumbo says young star Groenewegen compares to Kittel

LottoNL-Jumbo believes it has the peloton’s next big sprinter on its hands with Dylan Groenewegen, 24.

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LottoNL-Jumbo believes it has the peloton’s next big sprinter on its hands with Dylan Groenewegen.

The 24-year-old blew the doors off the peloton Sunday to win his first major classic in a stampeding fashion at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. The Dutch squad is bullish on its young, promising sprinter, and team brass says Sunday’s emphatic victory is just a sign of more things to come.

“He is a real powerhouse,” said LottoNL-Jumbo sport director Merijn Zeeman. “He is a combination of everything. He is like Marcel Kittel.”

Sunday’s big win ahead of Arnaud Démare (FDJ) was confirmation that Groenewegen is on track for a breakout season. And he’s poised to become the Netherlands’s next big star.

“His victory is not a surprise to us,” said Zeeman in a telephone interview. “He is already showing this year that he is one of the strongest sprinters in the bunch. Now he is absolutely one of the fastest in the peloton.”

A pro since 2015, Groenewegen grew up in Amsterdam. His father runs a family bike shop and his grandfather was a legendary bike frame builder for some of Holland’s biggest stars, so cycling runs in his blood.

After finishing second to Rick Zabel in the 2013 U23 Tour of Flanders, he came back the next year and won it. That secured him his first pro contract with Roompot for 2015, where he notched two victories in his rookie season. He turned down offers from other teams and chose to sign with LottoNL-Jumbo, a Dutch team with ties to the Rabobank franchise.

The team’s three-year plan for Groenewegen to win a Tour de France stage was accelerated by one season when he won the thrilling finale last year on the Champs-Élysées at the Tour de France in just his second Tour start. Groenewegen survived the mountains, and then held off André Greipel and Edvald Boasson Hagen in a long sprint.

“Outside the race, he is calm. During the race, he can plow through walls,” Zeeman said. “He is very motivated and very eager to become a star in cycling.”

Bolstered by that success, the team is quietly building a sprint train to deliver Groenewegen to the finish line in all the season’s major dates for sprinters. The team is counting on Timo Roosen and Amund Grondahl Jansen to lead him out. Veterans such as Maarten Wynants, Tom Leezer, and Lars Boom will also be working for the gifted sprinter.

“He can do a very long sprint,” Zeeman said. “We’ve worked on his acceleration and power. He’s not a guy who needs a draft, and he can jump around the peloton. What he did Sunday [in the final sprint], you saw immediately he had a gap when he started his sprint.”

Groenewegen looks to have all the qualities of a pure power sprinter. Zeeman worked with Kittel earlier in his career and said Groenewegen’s power is on par with what the big German can produce in the mass gallops.

“His progress with his power numbers is impressive,” Zeeman said. “Dylan has a dream of doing the same as Marcel Kittel has been the last years. Marcel is a big example.”

Despite success at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the focus will remain on sprints. He will parachute in for such races as Gent-Wevelgem and Scheldeprijs (and make his second Paris-Roubaix start), but he won’t be trying to turn him into a classics rider.

There’s no Milano-Sanremo on his schedule this year. Instead, the team will be nurturing Groenewegen’s pure strength and speed for the sprints. Up next is Paris-Nice, some sprint-friendly classics, then the Tour of Norway, and an altitude camp before a return to the Tour.

As much as LottoNL-Jumbo was happy with Groenewegen’s big win Sunday, it was even happier with how he and his teammates raced. Groenewegen was gapped on Oude Kwaremont in a decisive moment of the race, but his teammates patiently carried him from the third group back to regain contact with the nose of the peloton. Groenewegen finished off the work with an emphatic victory that left no doubt who was the strongest in the race.

“Even when the team is out of position, he is still able to fight to the front and sprint,” Zeeman said. “He has such an enormous drive for results and to win. With that mentality, he will be one of the stars I cycling, I am convinced.”

Groenewegen; it’s a name worth watching just in case you haven’t been already.

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