How many people know that there is a Dutchman riding for Groupama-FDJ? In fact, Lars van den Berg started his second Giro d'Italia in French service last Saturday. In an interview with IDLProCycling.com, he talked about Thibaut Pinot, his dreams of winning a stage in a Grand Tour and the departure of his brother Marijn.
It is quite remarkable that Van den Berg is riding the Giro for Groupama-FDJ. The French team is aiming for the general classification for Pinot, who is riding the final Giro of his career. It is special that a Dutch rider was chosen to support him among all those French riders, as Van den Berg also thinks: "If you see how popular he is even here in Italy, and with what kind of goal the team starts here, then it is special to be selected. The team trusts that I will be important, so I started this Giro off with a special feeling."
Van den Berg will be important for Pinot
Van den Berg describes Pinot as "very relaxed and very normal". "The first time I joined the team as a conti rider, I really looked up to him. Now I'm completely used to him and it's become normal." This is for the better because Pinot will rely on him in stages like day three in the Giro. "I'm not quite enough of a climber to compete in the mountains, but in the tough hilly stages, it's important that I can stay with him. That will be my role, along with being allowed to join in a breakaway. From there, I could still pull something off for Thibaut or for my own result."
He says it very casually, but Van den Berg actually has a kind of free role. "I do have ambitions. Two years ago I was in the leading group that went all the way to the finish twice. I think I am stronger now compared to then, so I hope to be in the mix again and see where the dice will fall," said the Dutchman, who dares to dream aloud. "I hope one day, of course, to win a stage in a big tour, that's the big goal. It's great to be able to race here and hopefully I'll learn a lot. I can't say for certain if the opportunity will arise, but being here now is educational for the coming years."
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Lars and Marijn van den Berg together again?
Since joining Groupama-FDJ's development team in 2020, Van den Berg has ridden the Giro once before, in 2021. So he's gotten used to a French team a bit, but not entirely. "It's already my fourth year if you count the development team. So I've really grown into it. Sometimes it still takes some getting used to. They say we're leaving at 10:00, but it's usually 10:10. I'm the only one ready at 10:00. That can be annoying," he laughs. "But otherwise, everything is going great, and I feel at home here. I'm able to ride in beautiful races and can be important to the team at times. I'm really enjoying myself."
That enthusiasm took a hit last year when younger brother Marijn van den Berg left Groupama-FDJ and joined EF Education-EasyPost. Brother Lars didn't see that coming. "The mutual contact is very good, but it is a shame that we no longer race together. During the year he won eight races, I expected him to move up as well, but things turned out differently. He's now in a great team at EF, and that's fine too. In the future, we will definitely ride together again, as part of the same team, maybe in a few years."
Until then, Van den Berg has to dream on his own, dreaming of a great career. "I've had a lot of trouble with crashes over the past two years, so I never really managed to reach a high level. In the Ardennes, it went really well again, so I hope to continue the momentum from the Giro onwards. From there, I'm hoping to get more in the picture in races with the profile of the Amstel Gold Race or Liège-Bastogne-Liège - with climbs up to about ten minutes. Those suit me best."