Cycling Families: Vanendert brothers

Jelle (left) and Dennis Vanendert (image courtesy of Lotto-Belisol)

There’s a pair of brothers riding in today’s Amstel Gold Race – the Vanenderts, Jelle and Dennis – who are both with Belgian team Lotto-Belisol. Jelle transferred from last year’s Omega Pharma-Lotto and co-captains the new team, whose intention is to focus largely on Belgian talent. This vision differs substantially from that of Omega Pharma, hence the split. Omega Pharma are now very happily and successfully co-habiting with Quick Step.

One of those young Belgian talents, getting a chance to fulfil their dream with the team, is Dennis, Jelle’s 23-year old younger brother, who puts his good fortune down to his brother putting in a word for him. I think it’s a bit more than that. Dennis spent 2011 in Farnese Vini’s under-23 squad where he was fourth in Pistoia-Fioranao and third in Giro del Medio Brenta. He has also posted some very promising results in the junior and espoir ranks both on the road and in cyclo-cross, including winning the Belgian junior cyclo-cross championships in 2006.

His brother Jelle didn’t exactly burst onto the scene last year either. He turned professional in 2005, riding previously for Chocolate Jacques and FDJ, before joining what was then Silence-Lotto in 2009. After his 2010 season was blighted by a knee injury, he started 2011 inauspiciously with a DNF in the Volta a Catalunya and a 62nd overall in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. But it turned out that he’d built fantastic form which he would use to great effect to support team-mate Philippe Gilbert in the Ardennes Classics. As the Walloon was winning the trifecta, Jelle finished in the top 20 at Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, as well as an impressive sixth place at Fleche Wallone.

Jelle crowned those promising results with his maiden professional win in the Tour de France, when he timed his attack to perfection to take an impressive solo victory on stage 14 to Plateau de Beille. Two day’s earlier he’d finished second to Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) on stage 12 atop Luz Ardiden. In addition, he held the polka dot jersey for a time (stages 14-19) before Sammy wrestled it away and carried it into Paris. Jelle finished the Tour 20th overall.

I should just mention in passing that the brothers have a cousin who was involved in cycling, ex-professional Roy Sentjens, who retired in 2010 from Milram after testing positive for EPO in an out of competition drug control.

The brothers, who enjoy training together, had been with their team in Mallorca and started their season with the Challenge Mallorca before competing in the Vuelta a Andalucia, where Jelle finished fifth on stage four. His season was brought nicely to a simmer in Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl, where he finished seventh.

Jelle’s targets for 2012 include the Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, the Olympics and the Worlds road race in 2012 while younger brother Dennis will continue to learn his craft.

Here at VeloVoices, we’ll be keeping an eye on how the boys fare in 2012.

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