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Giro d'Italia - Rabobank Team Preview
 
By Staff
Date: 5/11/2007
Giro d'Italia - Rabobank Team Preview
 

Giro d'Italia: Rabobank Team Preview
A hunt for stage wins and the King of the Mountain led by Michael Rasmussen will be the Rabobank squads goals as Adri van Houwelingen makes his debut as Directeur Sportif for the team in orange and blue.

By: Andrew Kappes

Rabobank
Climbing specialist Michael Rasmussen will lead Rabobank into the 2007 Giro D'Italia. Rasmussen has won the last two King of the Mountains competitions at the Tour de France, and is a major contender to do so at this year's Giro. In addition to his two polka dot jerseys, he has won two stages at Le Tour, a stage at the Vuelta in 2003, and a stage at the 2004 Dauphine Libere. He won't likely compete for the GC given his poor time trailing skills, but with the mountainous course, a couple of stage wins and a KOM jersey aren't out of the question.

Riding along side Rasmussen will he the Netherland's Leon Van Bon. Van Bon has already won the 2007 Nokere-Koerse, and the 35-year old rider should provide good support to Rasmussen.


Graeme Brown at press conference. Photo c. Mark Adkison Ph.D.

Sprint Festival
Rabobank brings two sprinters with them, the main one being Aussie Graeme Brown. Brown will be battling for the sprinter's title, and he has already had great success this year. He won two stages at the Tour of California in February, and a stage at the Vuelta a Murcia. He has always had success on the flat, he won a record five stages at the 2005 Tour de Langkawi, and he won two stages at the Deutschland Tour last season. He will be battling Robbie McEwen, Alessandro Petacchi, and Paolo Bettini and J.J. Haedo who is making his grand tour debut.

The other sprinter Rabobank will be bringing will be Max Van Heeswijk. The Dutch rider has found a little success since leaving Discovery last season, he won Stage three of the Vuelta a Andalucia this year. Van Heeswijk has a few Grand Tour successes, including wearing the Gold Jersey after stage two in 2004, and winning Stage seven of the Vuelta in 2005.

Both Browne and Van Heeswijk will be looking for sprint victories, but the Giro field has a full roster of sprinters to compete in this years Intergiro and Sprints jerseys.

Rabobank probably won't push forth a major maglia rosa contender, but Rasmussen should make a strong run at a few wins, especially at the summit finishes. Don't be surprised if he is the overall best climber at the end of the race. Of course fans of the young guns will have their eye on William Walker the 21 year old rider from Subiaco, Australia the 2006 U-23 National champ and winner of the race that included the elite riders. This is Walkers second Grand Tour after riding the Vuelta last year finishing a credible 112th in his first GT ride.

Rabobank Giro d'Italia Squad:
171  Michael Rasmussen
172  Alberto Mauricio Ardila
173  Graeme Brown
174  Koos Moerenhout
175  Max van Heeswijk
176  Dmitriy Kozontchuk
177  Lιon van Bon
178  William Walker
179  Pedro Horrillo Munoz

Rabobank Giro Release:
Adri van Houwelingen will make his debut as team leader in the Giro d'Italia, but as a cyclist he already competed in the Giro once. In 1986, he rode a very successful tour with team-Skala. "We were a young and inexperienced group," remembers Van Houwelingen. "Jean-Paul van Poppel made his debut and immediately broke through by winning two stages. Right now, I would jump at that chance. We have 21 opportunities to win at least one. We can accomplish this in multiple ways, but I expect the bunch sprints to hold the most opportunities for us."

After all, the Australian Graeme Brown strongly improved himself as a sprinter. "That is because he has also become a better cyclist," explains Van Houwelingen. "His top-speed might not have improved, but he knows better how to maintain his position and he has more power and energy left during the final kilometer. Last year, he would have been exhausted by then. And, except for McEwen, he has beaten all world-class sprinters once this season. Additionally, Van Heeswijk, Van Bon and Horrillo are there to assist him in the sprint."

Because there are two selective stages scheduled in the first week, this will immediately result in large time differences in the general classification. "This holds additional opportunities for breakaways." According to Van Houwelingen, the Rabo-team will also be able to strike in the mountains, with Rasmussen – who is really ambitious to perform well mainly during the second part of the Giro – and Ardila. "That would be great. Furthermore, I hope Mauricio will finish in the top-twenty. A podium place is not realistic. I do not want to put the expectations up too high, and Mauricio concurs with that."

Tour-classics-Giro
The team leader underlines the importance of the tour for the team, in spite the fact that Denis Menchov, Michael Boogerd and Oscar Freire are not on the list of participants. "They cannot appear at every start, but need to make decisions in their schedule. The Giro – after the Tour de France and the classics – is the most important race for us, let that be clear. A lot of races have lower priority."

Top-favorite for the final victory, according to Van Houwelingen, is Damiano Cunego. "Followed by Danilo di Luca, Paolo Savoldelli, and Gilberto Simoni. All of them are Italians, yes, but it has, after all, been eleven years since a foreigner won the Giro (Pavel Tonkov, edit.). Only in Italy is this race considered to be the most important race of the year. The same goes for Spaniards and the Vuelta, but for the rest of the world, the Tour de France has the highest priority."

Adri van Houwelingen will make his debut as team leader in the Giro d'Italia, but as a cyclist he already competed in the Giro once. In 1986, he rode a very successful tour with team-Skala. "We were a young and inexperienced group," remembers Van Houwelingen. "Jean-Paul van Poppel made his debut and immediately broke through by winning two stages. Right now, I would jump at that chance. We have 21 opportunities to win at least one. We can accomplish this in multiple ways, but I expect the bunch sprints to hold the most opportunities for us."

After all, the Australian Greame Brown strongly improved himself as a sprinter. "That is because he has also become a better cyclist," explains Van Houwelingen. "His top-speed might not have improved, but he knows better how to maintain his position and he has more power and energy left during the final kilometer. Last year, he would have been exhausted by then. And, except for McEwen, he has beaten all world-class sprinters once this season. Additionally, Van Heeswijk, Van Bon and Horrillo are there to assist him in the sprint."

"Because there are two selective stages scheduled in the first week, this will immediately result in large time differences in the general classification. This holds additional opportunities for breakaways." According to Van Houwelingen, the Rabo-team will also be able to strike in the mountains, with Rasmussen – who is really ambitious to perform well mainly during the second part of the Giro – and Ardila. "That would be great. Furthermore, I hope Mauricio will finish in the top-twenty. A podium place is not realistic. I do not want to put the expectations up too high, and Mauricio concurs with that."

Tour - Classics - Giro
The team leader underlines the importance of the tour for the team, in spite the fact that Denis Menchov, Michael Boogerd and Oscar Freire are not on the list of participants. "They cannot appear at every start, but need to make decisions in their schedule. The Giro – after the Tour de France and the classics – is the most important race for us, let that be clear. A lot of races have lower priority."

Top-favorite for the final victory, according to Van Houwelingen, is Damiano Cunego. "Followed by Danilo di Luca, Paolo Savoldelli, and Gilberto Simoni. All of them are Italians, yes, but it has, after all, been eleven years since a foreigner won the Giro (Pavel Tonkov). Only in Italy is this race considered to be the most important race of the year. The same goes for Spaniards and the Vuelta, but for the rest of the world, the Tour de France has the highest priority."
 

 
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