Big talents grow up fast and that certainly applies to Moreno Hofland. The always smiling muscleman, born and raised in Roosendaal, The Netherlands, arrived at Team LottoNL-Jumbo in 2013 in red-white and blue and immediately showed his qualities at a professional level. However, The Bear from Brabant isn’t done yet: “I’m aiming for a stage win in the Giro d’Italia this year.”
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It’s October 2013 and Hofland came close to a win on several occasions during his first year as a pro. In Turkey, Denmark and Canada he grabbed third places. However, a victory was still a bridge too far. In China, at the end of the cycling year, he finally hit the jackpot. After another third place in Beijing, Hofland won three stages in the Tour of Hainan and led the race from start to finish.
Hofland’s name was definitely established on March 2nd, 2014; exactly one year and 25 days after his first race as a pro. As a 22 year old rookie, he crossed the line in second position in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, behind classics king Tom Boonen. A week later, the first World Tour victory was there. In Paris-Nice’s second stage he outsprinted top guns like John Degenkolb and Nacer Bouhanni.
From swimming to Flanders
Hofland knows his development has been a rapid process. He was already 14 years old when he decided to trade swimming for cycling. “I didn’t want to swim the same lane over and over again.” However, the 23 year old doesn’t have time to reflect on his development. A new season means new goals, new opportunities and that’s where he’s saving all his attention for. This year will mark Hofland’s first appearances in the biggest classic races, races in which he’s hopes to immediately make an impact.
“I'm ready for the big races,” he said. Hofland’s spring looks as follows: Paris-Nice, Milan-San Remo, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders.
“I rode Kuurne and Dwars door Vlaanderen last year, so I know what riding a spring classic is like. I also remember the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as a neo pro, which, at that time, was the biggest shock of my life. After every corner and towards every hill it was a full throttle sprint. After 150 kilometres, I was done.”
Not too much respect
Hofland has grown a lot in the meantime. “I notice that I have made progress. At first, it was really special to ride big races between famous riders. During the first two years, I was really impressed sometimes, but now I really want to perform and I know that I can, so I cannot have too much respect for others. Now I’m only concerned about my performance.”
Learning from Vanmarcke
Teammate Sep Vanmarcke, a true classics specialist, is a good mentor for Hofland. "Sep shares a lot of information with me and the rest of the team. About tire pressure and courses for example. He knows the area inside out and knows exactly where you need to be at the front. Knowing the course is very important in Belgium, with all the twisting and turning.
“Sep helps us as much as possible. That’s good for the team and for himself of course. Personally, I also re-watch old races; to learn. For example, I’ve never ridden Ghent-Wevelgem, Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders. Looking at those videos ahead of a race really helps.”
Hofland watches those YouTube videos with attacks on the Kemmelberg, Poggio or Oude Kwaremont with a purpose, as he wants to shine in those races himself. “I’m aiming for a top ten finish in at least one of those races. If I don’t finish in the first group in Ghent-Wevelgem, I would be disappointed."
The weekend of June 28 is highlighted in red on Hofland’s calendar. On that day, the Dutch Road Championships will be held. “I know for a fact that racing in the red-white-blue jersey is really cool. As an espoir I did so for half a year before turning pro. The race is in Emmen and so the course will be relatively flat. If I end the Giro in good shape, there’s a chance that I will be one of the team’s protected riders.”
Hofland thinks that the arrival of Roompot, a new Pro Contintental team, doesn’t need to be a disadvantage for Team LottoNL-Jumbo during the Dutch road race. “With Roompot and Lars Boom and Niki Terpstra amongst other teams, there will be more contenders. In recent years, everybody wanted to be in our leader’s wheel, now everybody needs to watch everybody,” Hofland analysed.
First, Hofland has ambitions regarding Grand Tour racing. “I’m aiming for a stage win in the Giro d'Italia,” he said. Only once before did he ride in the land of pizza and fashion, namely in 2009: the Settimana Ciclista Lombarda By Bergamasca. “I used to spent my holidays at Lake Garda, but I haven’t done a lot of racing in Italy.”
Hofland knows that racing in Italy is quite stressful. “I’ve gathered this from several riders. There are lots of narrow passages through villages with big crowds and there’s so much tossing and turning. Besides that, the Giro is held quite early in the season, so the weather is quite unpredictable. I don’t mind those situations. I kind of like them and look forward to the Giro.”
Straighten the record
Hofland hopes to put the record straight in Italy after last year’s disappointing Vuelta. He arrived in Spain in extremely good shape and managed to obtain a third place finish in the fifth stage, but then suffered from a respiratory infection that already bothered him in the Tour of Utah, where he did manage to win two stages. “I needed antibiotics. After ten days I was completely worn-out and I couldn’t do anything but retire.”
Heavy crash in California
Hofland was really bummed. Not only because he quit the race on his birthday, but also because he already had to alter his season goals after a heavy crash in the Tour of California. “I really wanted to do well in the US, but that fall really messed things up. Next to this, my new goal was in danger as well. That was one big setback too much. I really lost my morale. I trained, but didn’t enjoy it at all.”
The tumble in California was the worst in Hofland's career so far. And it didn’t even happen during full racing. Still, things went terribly wrong on the roads around a city with a fairy-tale name: Thousand Oaks.
“I was already dropped. In a blind corner, I couldn’t ride the ideal line because of some tourists. All of a sudden, I crashed. I do not remember what happened exactly, but I ended up on the guardrail. I wanted to get up, but couldn’t even get my body off the ground. I could hardly breathe, and several people were hanging above me. It was then, that I knew that I was in pretty bad shape.”
Strolling through LA
Hofland had to stay in the United States after his crash for twee weeks. He suffered several broken ribs and a fracture in a vertebra. The doctors didn’t allow him to board a plane. His father was allowed to fly, and he flew from Holland to the USA immediately. Together they made a virtue of necessity at the East Coast. “For my recovery, it was good to go out and walk, the doctors said. Together with my father I explored Los Angeles. That was quite fun.”
On his ongoing pursuit of success, Hofland is always supported by a loyal companion. A companion who’s on his side in good times and bad: the Bianchi Oltre XR2.
“The friendship was there right from the start, because I immediately won races with the bike. I like the Bianchi, they’re just really nice bikes. The extra carbon in the upper house makes it nice and tight and you can manoeuvre it well in a sprint. It’s very direct and does exactly what you want. Regarding conformity, it’s a perfect bike as well. You can easily make long rides.”
Hofland likes the new colours of the bike. “Yeah, I think it’s a lot better than last year. It gives me extra confidence. The bike really shines now. Personally, I like to race with white socks and shoes. That’s how it should be, I think, for the show.”
Hofland regularly visits a Jumbo supermarket during the training rides on his Bike. “There are a lot of Jumbo’s in Brabant.” The special pass that all riders of the team received at the beginning of this year, comes in handy.
“With that pass, we can pass and fetch a bottle of water, a banana or a can of cola without needing money. I’ll be honest, I usually don’t visit a supermarket that often. I still live with my parents and that suits me well. I’m often away from home for racing and when I’m home, it’s nice to not have to worry about a lot of things. I can cook, but I don’t do it that often. My mother is a good cook and knows how to make healthy dishes, why should I hamper her in the kitchen, haha.”
Hofland especially likes his mother Lianne’s lasagne. “I really love her lasagne, I’m a big fan of Italian food.”
Hopefully the Italian cuisine will help Hofland in May, when he will hunt for a Giro d’Italia stage win in his ongoing pursuit of success and improvement. “That would be very nice.”