Wilco Kelderman will not be aiming to peak for another six months but admits he’s encouraged by his early season form as he captured second place at the Abu Dhabi Tour.
The Dutchman’s main goal for the 2018 season will be success at the Vuelta a Espana at the end of August. But he finished inside the top 50 on each of the five stages in the Emirates, securing second overall behind Movistar veteran Alejandro Valverde.
The Team Sunweb rider has previous Grand Tour form – including finishing fourth at the Vuelta last year, 24 seconds shy of a podium place.
He was also seventh at the Giro d’Italia in 2014, but admits competing at the Vuelta this year is his main aim.
“The Vuelta is more important for me,” said the 26-year-old. “There are opportunities for other riders for the other Grand Tours that the team has. I’m feeling good and looking forward to the Vuelta.”
Although there are six months before the Vuelta, Kelderman is pleased with his form as he heads to Tirreno–Adriatico from March 7–13 and the Volta a Catalunya from March 19–25.
“Every race is important. Not just the Vuelta,” added the 2015 Dutch time trial champion.
“Tirreno-Adriatico and Catalunya are also very important for me. They are big races coming up where I need to be good.
“I’m pleased with where I’m at, at this stage of the season. I had a really good winter and trained hard. There were no issues and for the first race it’s pretty good.”
He was close to victory on Stage 5 but admitted Spanish icon Valverde and Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez, who finished second, were just too good.
“I wanted to win, I tried and I was going for it, but they were just too strong,” added Kelderman, who did at least finish above Lopez in the GC, 17 seconds behind Valverde.
The fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour and the first extended to five stages proved worthy of the sensational field of top riders who assembled at race headquarters at Yas Marina last week.
Below are some numbers from the WorldTour race in the Middle East.
1 – the finishing position of Alejandro Valverde on General Classification. On the final podium the Spanish rider of Movistar Team proudly wore the Red Jersey powered by Al Maryah Island
2 – the number of 360° cameras used by Velon during the Abu Dhabi Tour. It has been a premier for a WorldTour event
3 – the value of the commemorative stamp – in Dirhams – issued by Emirates Post and featuring the Abu Dhabi Tour advertising campaign
4 – editions of the Abu Dhabi Tour so far
5 – stages, totalling 681.6km of racing
16:00: 11” – the total time raced by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) according to Tag Heuer, Abu Dhabi Tour official timekeeper
19 – TV production cameras: nine at the finish, four at the start, one in each of the two helicopters, four on the motorbikes during the race
24 – the kt of the golden plate of Golden Grit, the new Abu Dhabi Tour trophy
26 – riders from Italy, the best represented country, then 12 from Germany and Spain and 10 from Russia
29 – the gap in seconds to Valverde to the winner of best young rider Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team), who wore the White Jersey sponsored by Abu Dhabi Sports Channel
32 – the countries represented by 140 athletes at the start
42.582km/h – average speed of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour
46 – the points accumulated by Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), winner of the Green Jersey sponsored by Emirates Post
52.682km/h – the average speed of the Abu Dhabi Tour’s fastest stage ever, the time trial won by the Australian Rohan Dennis from BMC Racing Team
65.2km/h – the speed of Alexander Kristoff in full flight in Stage 1’s bunch sprint. Caleb Ewan maxed out at 63.8km/h, Elia Viviani at 63.2km/h as measured by Velon
73 – Mercedes vehicles involved in the race, all supplied by the Emirates Motor Company
76 – the dossard number of Nikolay Trusov (Gazprom – Rusvelo), winner of the Black Jersey sponsored by Etihad Airways
83 – media outlets accredited, for a total of 125 journalists and 48 photographers
116 – vehicles in total including cars, vans and team cars provided by Hertz
132 – riders at the finish
193 – countries providing TV coverage. One more compared to 2017, and +14 compared to the first edition in 2015 (169)
524 – the number of participants over the three stages of the Abu Dhabi Tour Challenge at Jebel Hafeet and Yas Marina Circuit on 2, 11 and 20th February
735W – Alejandro Valverde’s peak power in watts during the decisive attack on the ascent of Jebel Hafeet on Stage 5, as measured by Velon
976 – the number of water bottles, specially designed by children for the Abu Dhabi Tour and exhibited in the kids areas at Stage 1, 3 and 5, and as part of the Water Bottles Art Exhibition
1,461 – students from nine different schools attending the hour-long class of the Educational project powered by Abu Dhabi Tour in collaboration with Adek during February.
2,050km – approx covered by the Advertising Caravan all across Abu Dhabi before and during the race
2,122 – total accreditations printed
3,107 – articles published online about the Abu Dhabi Tour from 21 to 25 February
3,500 – people who watched the Abu Dhabi Tour at Nation Towers, the race’s official Fan Zone
18,000 – kg of team equipment delivered from 17 different nations on a total of 1,014 different flights – thanks to our partner, Etihad
47,000 – Abu Dhabi Tour Facebook fans, +34.3% compared to February 2017
317,000 – page views per day for abudhabitour.com +9.3% compared to the last edition
Reaching the pinnacle of sport is something few of us can relate to, and it elicits such a special feeling that it can be difficult to turn away from.
That feeling can work against you though and there are plenty of examples of stars who clung to the high of competing that little bit longer than they should have.
Likewise, Michael Jordan. The greatest basketball player of all-time could have had the perfect end to his NBA career in 1998 as he led the Chicago Bulls to their third-straight title and sixth in eight years. Yet he couldn’t let go and tarnished his legacy when he came back for an ill-fated stint with the Washington Wizards from 2001-03.
Staying too log in the saddle is not something that Alejandro Valverde can be accused of just yet though.
At 37 and having crashed out of the Tour de France last July after a fall which left him with a broken kneecap, many wondered whether the Spaniard veteran’s 16-year cycle in professional cycling had finally run its course.
Most would be content with the long list of accolades he has collected – among them the 2009 Vuelta a Espana crown, four Liege–Bastogne–Liege titles and five La Fleche Wallonne trophies.
Any lingering doubts as to whether the Bullet should have pulled the trigger on his days at the top following his abrupt end to 2017 have been answered emphatically in the early months of 2018.
Victory in Abu Dhabi yielded a second title of the year after his Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana triumph last month, while his ascent to the No1 spot on Jebel Hafeet was his third stage win of the year.
Movistar man Valverde is right to chase his dream Hollywood hurrah. But on this evidence there are still a few more scenes remaining before this film star of cycling’s credits begin to roll.