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91st Giro d'Italia - Rabobank Team Preview
By Bart Hazen
Date: 5/9/2008
91st Giro d'Italia - Rabobank Team Preview

Giro d'Italia 2008 - Rabobank Team Preview
Denis Menchov makes his debut in the Corsa Rosa looking to add a Maglia Rosa to his collection of Gold Vuelta Jerseys.

Denis Menchov's reign in the gold jersey began on Stage 9 and held the race lead until the finish in Madrid. Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti

The Rabobank team for the Giro D’Italia is built around team leader and double Vuelta winner Denis Menchov. In the last few years, the Russian has always been able to stay in good form, long after his peak moments, at le tour! This is why the rider has the confidence of the team in orange and blue jerseys, to compete in the Giro before heading to the Tour de France; Menchov will likely not ride the Vuelta D’Espana later this year. For Menchov it will be his debut in the Giro D’Italia; so far this season his form has improved with each race finishing 5th in the Vuelta Castilla y Leon and 4th in the Tour de Romandie.

Denis Menchov moved up from 353 to 190 after winning the Giro last year by 3 minutes over his closest rival in the 8th edition of the All-Time Best Road Cyclist Ranking this year. The question is, can the Russian rider win with the team assembled and live up to his favorite status.

2007 Vuelta a Espana: The Rabobank squad and Menchov proved once again strong enough to withstand the attacks with perfect tactics; here on Stage 14 leading the chase on the Cat 3 Alto Santiago Pontones. Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti

Menchov will get support in the mountains from lieutenants Mauricio Ardila and Theo Eltink.

Mauricio Ardila was one of Menchov's key helpers in last year’s Vuelta leading to his victory. For Ardila it’s his third season with Rabobank. In 2004 Ardila was 31st in the Giro when he rode for Chocolade Jacques, in 2005 riding for Davitamon-Lotto he finished 27th in the Giro and 8th in the Vuelta D’Espana. So far in 2008 Ardila has performed very well: 19th in California, 20th in Vuelta a Pais Vasco and 3rd in the Henninger Turm showing he is on target for the Giro.

Giro d'Italia Squad
• Denis Menchov
• Graeme Brown
• Mauricio Ardila
• Matthew Hayman
• Theo Eltink
• Paul Martens
• Bram de Groot
• Dmitriy Kozontchuk
• Gerben Löwik

Theo Eltink is referred to a talented rider and especially a talented climber just as Pieter Weening is; but  Eltink hasn't lived up to others expectations. Eltink turned pro in 2005 with Rabobank; his debutante outing as a pro he had his best result in the Giro finishing 29th but his best result in a Grand Tour was in 2005 when he finished 24th in the Vuelta. In 2008 his best results was twice at11th position in the Trofeo Laigueglia and the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto. In the Giro both Ardila and Eltink have to support and protect Menchov for a podium appearance.

Graeme Browne
The sprinter for the  Rabosquad is fast Aussie Graeme Brown. Browney has never had the grand tour successes he desired, but this year he hopes to make a bigger mark in the Giro. Brown has won stages in the Tour de Langkawi, Deutschland Tour, Tour of California, Tour de Pologne and one-day races. A very mixed 2008 season so far; but not without victories at Trofeo Cala Millor and a stage in Murcia and finished a few times in second and third.

2007 Tour of California: Graeme Brown won two stages.
Photo c. Mark Adkison Ph.D.

His assistant for the sprints will be compatriot Matthew Hayman. Hayman is quite fast too and has ridden his whole career for Rabobank. His best result was definitely his win  in the Commonwealth Games Road Race.  Hayman's best results this year are his 7th place in the Australian Championships, a 3rd place in a stage in the Tour Down Under, 10th in the Ronde van het Groene Hart and 12th in the Hel van het Mergelland.

The team is be completed by German Paul Martens, Dutch Bram de Groot, Russian Dmitriy Kozontchuk and Dutch Gerben Löwik. Michiel Elijzen will jump in as a substitution if it turns out that one of the Rabo-riders cannot compete.

German Paul Martens is new to the team having come from Skil-Shimano were he impressed with a stage win in the Tour of Luxembourg, the win in the Münsterland Giro, a stage and the 2nd place overall in the Ster Elektro Toer, 3rd in the Hainleite and 9th in the Eneco Tour. But most of all Martens is a very aggressive rider which he showed once again in his first months for Rabobank. Martens can't seem to stay with a large group of riders and would rather be out on his own this year he has been an outrider at   Tour de California, Vuelta a Pais Vasco, Amstel Gold Race and the Fleche Wallonne. As you can see, all very tough races. We will definitely see Martens in one of the many breaks in the Giro as well.

Dimitriy Kozontchuk is a compatriot of Denis Menchov who finished 100th in the Giro in his first year as a professional. Thus far this season he didn’t showed anything but will be very valuable for the team and for Menchov.

Last but not least we will introduce the Dutch riders Bram de Groot and Gerben Löwik. Their roles in the team will be to support the team in the best possible way. Löwik is coming back from a broken wrist and will use the Giro to build better form for the races later on in the year.

De Groot is the most experienced rider in the Rabobank team. He is professional since 1999 and rode his whole career for the Dutch team. This season De Groot hasn’t any results to speak of, but in the past he isn't a stranger to the podium counting the Delta Profronde, the Uniqa Classic and a stage in the Tour de Mediterranean and the Volta a Catalunya among his palmares. He has also completed six Tours de France; tomorrow will be his debut in the Giro d'Italia.

Michiel Elijzen will jump in as a substitution if it turns out one of the Rabo-riders cannot compete. The team will be led by sport-directors Erik Breukink and Frans Maassen.

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