Tour de France - Rabobank Squad Announced
Denis Menchov leads the team in blue and orange as tour preparation done. Oscar
Freire fit for sprints. Tour debutantes Langeveld and Ten Dam
Coming July 5 in Brest, the Rabo Pro Team will start the Tour de France with,
amongst others, Sébastian Langeveld and Pieter Weening, but without Thomas
Dekker. The complete team consists of:
2008 Tour de France Squad
Laurens ten Dam
Juan Antonio Flecha
Erik Breukink and Erik Dekker are the team managers. Erik Breukink: "We have
chosen the nine riders who are currently the best."
week, captain Denis Menchov will continue his preparation for the Tour. On
Thursday and Friday he will explore the two stages in the Pyrenees with Koos
Moerenhout and team manager Erik Breukink. The Russian closely studied the three
Alps stages last week. The stage across the completely unfamiliar Alps giants
Lombarda and Bonnette received extra attention.
The captain for the flat stages, Oscar Freire, appeared to be in good shape
in the Tour de Suisse, with a stage victory in the first stage.
Langeveld & ten Dam Debut
Sébastian Langeveld and Laurens ten Dam are the debutants in the formation.
Langeveld dropped out of the Tour de Suisse early as a precautionary measure,
but he could immediately restart training without any complaints and/or problems
once he got back to the Netherlands.
To Pieter Weening it is his forth start already. Weening missed the entire
pre-season and swung into action for the first time in mid-May. He gave an
especially strong performance in the Dauphiné Libéré. In spite of that, however,
Weening's selection was a very pleasant surprise for him. "I am obviously very
happy with this. Excellent. Spring was very heavy, but it went really well in
the Dauphiné. That was a great feeling."
Mixed Feelings After the Tour de Suisse
"Of course we look back at this tour with mixed feelings. To finish with four
men, all of them very tough riders, is not great." Team leader Frans Maassen had
to balance two contrasting viewpoints in regards to this tour. On the one hand
the result is simply good. A stage victory, twice a second place was claimed and
a tenth place in the final ranking for Laurens ten Dam. On the other hand
however three Tour-candidates dropped out prematurely, Thomas Dekker (out of
shape), Sébastian Langeveld (knee complaints) and Oscar Freire (calf), and
Dmitriy Kozontchuk abandoned the race because if illness.
The drop-outs did not cause in panic. Sébastian Langeveld in the meantime is
doing fine. He has already practiced for five hours at home and it did not
result in any problems. Oscar Freire was not at the start on Sunday because he
had been experiencing minor knee problems over the last few days. Frans Maassen:
"Nothing to be worried about. Perhaps we are missing out on an opportunity to
win a stage, but more important is what Oscar is going to do in the Tour later
on, because right now I do not think we should fear that he is not going to
start. Oscar was riding well here, but thought it would be better not to force
anything. I think that is wise."
But as mentioned before, there was also good news. Laurens ten Dam showed
just before the start of the Tour that he is physically ready for the French
race. He rode excellently in the three mountain stages in Switzerland and also
did a wonderful job in the heavy climb time trial on Saturday. A tenth place in
the final classification was the reward on Sunday. "A fine classification but
the best thing is that Laurens becomes better on daily basis. He will be able to
keep up with the pace in the mountains during the Tour and these are the kind of
tough riders we need."
The team leader also saw Bram Tankink improve during the tour. "It did not
look very good halfway through, but he managed to climb back up again." In
addition to Ten Dam and Tanking, Theo Eltink and Marc de Maar also made it to
Bern, which had been colored in beautiful orange the past two weeks. Especially
De Maar found it remarkable. He had a couple of bad days, and was at the point
of giving up, but stayed in the race based on character. "Hats off to Marc. It
is really impressive what he has shown here," reported Maassen.
Menchovs Tour Preparation in the Alps
The start of the Tour de France is quickly approaching. Rabo-captain Denis
Menchov also started his final preparatory period on Tuesday ( last week). The
Russian has settled in the Alps with among others team leader Erik Breukink.
Three extremely heavy stages will be explored there during the upcoming days.
Today's track (Tuesday), which included the unknown climb the Lombarda and the
Bonnette, was labeled 'very interesting' by Breukink. "No one is familiar with
this stage. The stage we will explore on Thursday is also pretty unknown. Hence,
it is not only just a training camp," explained the team leader.
Menchov is the only rider to participate in this Alps training camp. Next
week, he and Breukink will explore the Pyrenees stages and perhaps Thomas Dekker
and even one other Rabo-rider will be added to the Rabo-team. "We still have to
see with whom we are going to do this. It is important to wait and see how
Thomas is going to 'digest' the Tour of Switzerland. He is not in an optimal
form there. Perhaps this Pyrenees training camp fits his preparation perfectly."
The camp will take place on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 June. Self-explanatory,
Dekker will then not appear at the start of the Dutch National Championships in
Breukink briefly looked for someone to accompany Menchov during the
exploratory mission in the Alps. "Because the days are long, and practicing is
more comfortable with two or three riders, but the schedules of the various
riders made it impossible to find one. Those who competed in the Dauphine could
not make it, and currently we are right in the middle of the Tour of Switzerland
and the Ster Elektro Tour. A Continental? No, it is still too heavy for those
guys. But, Denis can do it on his own."
Menchov very relaxed
The team leader was very relieved after his meeting with Menchov on Monday. Ever
since the Giro, the Russian has not participated in an official race. "He made a
relaxed impression. Denis has received a boost of confidence in the Giro. He did
not have to use up every ounce of his energy every day and he was even stronger
at the end of the tour. He did not do much the days after the Giro and he
intensified his training intensity shortly before this camp. Denis is very
relaxed at the moment. He is really doing a great job working towards the Tour."
According to Breukink it is far from clear who will assist him during the
Tour, despite the fact that a national Dutch newspaper published eight names, of
whom they were sure that they would be the starters. Breukink: "We took notice
of that, but those names were not given to them by us. No decisions have been
made with regards to the eight riders. We still have to balance the pros and
cons and take some things into consideration." That is all Breukink wanted to
say about it. Only that Pieter Weening, who was added to the preliminary
Tour-selection at the very last, surprised him in a positive way during the
Dauphiné. "It is just wonderful how things unfolded for him there. He did not
just compete, but made a very special impression."
Robert Gesink for Olympics
And Robert Gesink? Breukink: "He already has a fixed schedule. We are not going
to change that, but I do admit that Robert again made a wonderful impression. I
think he could cope with the Tour from a physical point of view, but there is
more to it than the physical elements. He again made a giant leap forwards in
the Dauphiné. Indeed, the gap between him and the Tour-favorites was relatively
small after several mputain-stages and a long time-trial. He performs well
wherever he competes. Just let Robert have a shot at the Olympic Games."
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