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Giro Teams: Rabobank
By Staff
Date: 5/6/2005
Giro Teams: Rabobank

By Jan Janssens

A few days ago a small drama took place for the Orange boysíGiro team: "Soldier" Marc Wauters had a serious crash and was ruled out for for the Giro. A drama because the Rabo team is very young: the average age of the riders on this Giro team is a stunning 25.3 years old! All thanks to boy wonders like Thomas Dekker and Rory Sutherland. But for all their talent, a bit of guidance in their first grand tour is always welcome, and there arenít many riders with a better experience/ability ratio than Wauters.

There doesnít seem to be an outspoken team leader on this team, but climbing specialist Michael Rasmussen is probably the Rabo rider that can make the biggest impression in this Giro. Heís red, heís white, heís Danish dynamite! There should be no doubts left what this former mountain bike world champ can do in the mountains, but it is fair to ask what he can do in the final rankings. His time-trialling is mediocre at best, and he always seems to have a bad day or two in the mountains. Rasmussen is a candidate for top 10 and a stage win, but probably not for a podium place.

Someone who will surely be able to do that should he resume his spectacular rise is young Thomas Dekker. Heís monstrously talented, with an amazing ability to time-trial, and he has more than kept up with the better climbers of the peloton on various occasions this season. This Giro will be his maiden grand tour, and it will be interesting to see how he stomachs three weeks of hard racing. Donít expect him to clinch mountain-top wins just yet, but TT- top 3ís and why not, wins, should already be well within his reach. Heís so good that itís scary sometimes.

Other young and talented riders that have jumped on the Rabobank train to Italy are Theo Eltink, Rory Sutherland and Russian champion Alexandr Kolobnev. Eltink is a stage racer with some potential and finished 8th in the Tour de líAvenir last year, his first Giro will serve as a means to get stronger and test his climbing qualities against the big guns. But donít expect to see that of Sutherland somewhere up front when the road goes up: with his 1.88m this young Aussie is more a classic rider than a stage racer. His reasons for riding this Giro are the same as those of half the Rabo team: trying to finish the Giro and getting stronger. On another note, Sutherland is also a more than decent sprinter (can someone point me an Australian who isnít? Kangaroo genes, I say). Kolobnev is an all-rounder and already had a season at the big leagues at Domina Vancanze last year, but left because of whatís come to be called the ĎItalian sprinterí-syndrome. I heard Dario Cioni and Filippo Pozzato caught the same bug some time ago.

It says a lot about the Rabobankís radical choice for youngsters that I didnít include Roy Sentjens in the previous paragraph: with his 24 years heís actually among the Ďaveragely agedí riders in this team! Sentjes, like Sutherland, is a classics man with a good sprint, probably looking for a break or a sprint with a decimated peloton. His win in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne 2 years ago shows that he knows what victory tastes like.

Thorwald Veneberg only recently graduated from his college studies and now looks to apply himself completely to cycling. Veneberg, winner of the prestigious Scheldeprijs earlier this season, has a big engine and can stomach small to average climbs well, making him dangerous in smaller stage races and a powerful domestique at this Giro.

The last two riders to line up are Ďold mení Grischa Niermann and Steven De Jongh. Niermann is a well-liked rider within the team, and does well on just about any terrain, †capable of riding well for his own purposes or helping a stronger member of the team, like he did in last yearís Tour for Levi Leipheimer. He and Veneberg will probably function as Rasmussenís lieutenants in the mountains. De Jongh is the rider who fills Marc Wautersí shoes in the Giro, but probably more for his experience than his qualities as a rider, as heís a solid classics hard man. He kicks on rain and cold and is a good sprinter, so expect him in flat stages with apocalyptic weather, should they occur!

To summarize: Rabobank couples a spectacular rider like Rasmussen to a host of young heaven-stormers, obviously investing in the future. I say kudos to them for giving their young riders so many chances, and letís hope that their efforts will be rewarded with a stage win or two. Rasmussen, Dekker and De Jongh look to be the most likely suspects to deliver one of those.


Thomas Dekker (Hol)
Theo Eltink (Hol)
Steven de Jongh (Hol)
Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus)
Grischa Niermann (Ger)
Michael Rasmussen (Dan)
Roy Sentjens (Bel)
Rory Sutherland (Aus)
Thorwald Veneberg (Hol)

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