Edited article from ‘de Volkskrant’
Born: June 07, 1987, 28 years old
Tall: 178 cm. Weight: 66 kilo.
Pro cyclist since 2010.
Rides in Team LottoNL-Jumbo
He was not a big talent and he has never achieved a great victory. But now, 6 days before the finish of the Giro d’Italia of 2016, there is a big chance that Steven Kruijswijk will be the First Dutch winner of the Giro.
Twenty years after Rabobank took up cycling and four years after they stopped doing so, the project’s success is still visible. After Bauke Mollema and Pieter Weening this Steven Kruijswijk is the third rider who leads in a big stage race as an old pupil of the Rabo Development Team.
The chance that there will be the third Dutch rider winning a great stage race is growing day by day. This weekend Steven Kruijswijk took a great step forward in the Tour of Italy.
But neither Mollema nor Weening can equal the performance Kruijswijk showed in the Dolomites this weekend. With a second place in a stage over six mountain passes he took over the pink jersey last Saturday. Last Sunday he enlarged his advance in a climbing time trial in an unequalled manner so that he may well be the First Dutch winner of the Tour of Italy coming Sunday.
And that is funny, for Steven Kruijswijk was not the greatest in the line of talents in the school. Thomas Dekker, Robert Gesink and Wilco Kelderman; those were the men who were expected to have a glorious future. Wilco Kelderman may as yet fulfill that promise but for the time being Steven Kruijswijk rules.
Dedication is the first word his ex trainer Sjef Kisters thinks of to explain it. “Just do it, being the father of a newborn baby and leave for a mountain in Tenerife for five weeks to prepare for the Giro. For him it is no problem. Steven can handle it.
Kisters is the man who put Kruijswijk, born 28 years ago in Brabantian Nuenen, on a bike. A reddish boy, some 15 years old, rang his doorbell. If cycling might be something for him?
TALENTED LITTLE FOOTBALL PLAYER
“Steven was a talented football player. But it annoyed him that he depended on others. That is the way how it all started, in cycling club “Trap met Lust”(have fun in pedaling).
Even then Steven Kruijswijk was not exceptionally good. But he could persevere. His head could take the color of a tomato, but a stayed in the wheel. Kisters: ‘Giving up was not an option’.
Later it appeared in physical tests too that his powers did not go as far as those of Gesink and Mollema of his generation. But Steven has kept developing, says Kisters. When 5% is added every year the Total is quite good.
When Steven Kruijswijk finished in the 7th place in the National Championship for promises, he became a part of the so-called Cycling Plan that RABObank had drawn up. The First time that Holland came to know him was four years later in a TV broadcast “De Wereld Draait Door” (The World keeps turning).
The Tour of Italy started in Amsterdam and for that reason the complete RABO team was guests in the broadcast. Kruijswijk, who had just become a pro, got a place in the team at the very last moment. He blushed ear to ear when the TV host Matthijs Van Nieuwkerk addressed him: “And since when do you ride?
The answer to that was lost in the dust of history. But three weeks later the birth of a new stage rider could be announced because of his 18th place. Kruijswijk’s power lies just in that aspect of a great cyclist. And that is the very reason why he is rather unknown. He has never been able to achieve a great victory. Last Sunday he was very close to it in the climbing time trial, but he missed the victory by a split second.
His rise in the classifications may well be read in his results in the Tour of Italy, his favorite race. One year after his first appearance the year 2011 seemed to become his breakthrough. His second participation resulted in an 8th place. Moreover, one month later he won the heaviest mountain stage in the Tour of Switzerland.
The great forward leap seemed imminent. And then there was a hitch. He suffered from a constricted artery in his groin, a handicap which often occurs in cyclists. The operation was risky, but there was no alternative. Otherwise he would have to settle for a role as a helper all his life.
It cost me two years for sure, Kruijswijk said a week ago on the second resting day of the Tour of Italy. It is like Wout Poels’ terrible crash in the Tour de France. Such bad luck makes you stronger.
COURAGE OF A LION
Steven Krijswijk got his comeback last year, again in the Giro. After he had lost eight minutes in the first week due to inattentiveness, he fought himself back into the race with the courage of a lion. It is a seventh place with a golden lining, concluded team leader Frans Maassen.
It gave him enough confidence to aim higher this year. In the last few days Steven Kruijswijk has never bragged about that, but the podium of honour will certainly have come up in his mind. His grasp for the lead of this weekend surpassed every expectation.
The Brabantian pink jersey wearer is not the man to show off. Exuberance is alien to him. Kisters: “He had a fanclub here, but it was stopped at his request. Steven does not particularly like adoration”.
All in all Steven Kruijswijk has been a pro cyclist for seven years now and in fact he is still unknown. It is the example of a rider with an enormous will power, not a high class talent by nature but who through perseverance has grown stronger step by step in the last seven years. I have followed the Giro d’Italia on TV this year. Primoz Roglic was a sensation, but Steven Kruijswijk is a greater surprise. The power and the ease he shows in the climbs and in the climbing time trial were phenomenal. As i fit cost nothing at all. A few more days to go. The chance of not winning is realistic because he has no team to support him. But his achievements up to now can never be taken away from him.