In recent years we have been spoiled in the Netherlands when it comes to young riders with general classification (GC) ambitions. Many of them indeed break through. Wilco Kelderman is a perfect example of this: he took part in the Giro d’Italia for the first time in 2013 and had a great finish, coming sixteenth. Now, a few years later and he is the leading man of Team Sunweb for this year’s Vuelta a España.

Quiet rise

Where the French go hard with each new cycling talent—by celebrating and bombarding each rider with high expectations—Kelderman was just one part of a larger group of talented riders that were breaking through at the same time. This gave him the space to calmly achieve his goals, as he started his career in 2012 with the then Rabobank team. As a 21-year-old, he took it easy and participated in a variety of races. He had no complaints. In his first year riding the Dauphiné he placed eighth in the overall standings, winning the youth jersey.

Photo: Cor Vos

His real breakthrough came in 2014. That year, he went to the Giro with GC ambitions. After placing sixteenth the year before, he did better in 2014. In a field with top riders like Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Urán Urán, Fabio Aru and Cadel Evans, he placed seventh. He even left Evans in the dust. His time difference with Quintana was eleven minutes, so it was too early to claim that Kelderman was going to win, but it was certainly impressive.

Photo: Cor Vos

Kelderman had to wait several years for a new strong GC. He had some bad luck during his cycling career: for example, in the Tour de France of 2015, he had many issues relating to illness and injury, and in 2016 it wasn’t much better. 2016 was also the last year that he raced for Rabobank and its successors, Belkin and LottoNL Jumbo.

Team Sunweb

Kelderman has been riding for Team Sunweb since 2017. His first goal there was to help Tom Dumoulin as shadow captain during his victory in the Giro. Dumoulin succeeded of course, but eventually without Kelderman, who had to abandon after the ninth stage due to an injury.

Photo: Cor Vos

At the end of 2017 everything finally fell into place for Kelderman. In the Vuelta he managed a very strong classification, coming in fourth. Once again he confirmed that he is a rider to take notice of. Because he got injured during the NK this year, he missed the Tour de France. Fortunately, he has recovered enough to participate in the Vuelta. His lack of race kilometres is a drawback on paper, but without any preparation he managed to place fifth in the Tour of Switzerland this year. Hopefully he will achieve a great results in the Vuelta again.