Tour Guide Flashback – Rabobank Pages (2011)
RIDE Media has produced the official Tour de France Guide (Australian edition) since 2003. The 2012 edition will be on sale mid-June. As part of the team pages we are also offering ‘Flashbacks’ to the 2011 Guide to help provide a look at the progress/changes to the teams between the 98th and 99th Tours de France.
In this flashback we look at the commentary on the Rabobank team from the 2011 Tour preview.
Flashback: 2011 – Rabobank Team Pages
Gesink: a serious Dutch hope for the yellow jersey
It’s been 21 years since Erik Breukink finished on the podium, as the third-place finisher at the Tour de France. That effectively marked the end of an era: when Dutch riders were capable of a good result in the general classification. To date, only one rider from the Netherlands has won the yellow jersey – Jan Janssen back in 1968. But that could change this year.>
Robert Gesink has given Rabobank hope. He has class and appears to be a man on the brink of a very big success. And his team is putting its considerable resources behind him in 2011. He is going to have a full-tilt crack at winning the title. It will be his third Tour and although he’s been relatively anonymous until now – crashing out early in his debut and following others to his sixth place in 2010 – everything is going according to his bold plans so far this year. He won two stages of the Tour of Oman (and the title) early in the season, backed up with second (behind Cadel Evans) in Tirreno-Adriatico, and got through his spring campaign with numerous top-10 placings. Critically, he survived without any injuries or illness.
His talent is best exposed on the climbs. It was on the slopes of Mont Ventoux in 2008 that he finished second to Evans in Paris-Nice and took the yellow jersey. That was his first real taste of the big league and although he stumbled in a stage and slipped down the rankings to finish fourth overall, he earned a reputation as a star of the future. And that time is now!
This is a team that’s been significantly rebuilt several times over the years and the roster now contains a number of Dutch riders who have come through Rabobank’s development team. Bauke Mollema was touted as “better than Gesink” by some who saw the rider from Groningen perform early in his career. Three top-10 placings on GC of the three major stages races he did early this year – Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta al Paìs Vasco – should be considered as evidence of his ability.
“He never thought of being a cyclist,” explained Rodrick de Munnik, from Fiets magazine. “But he noted that he could get to school a lot faster than the other kids. He tried a time trial… won that, and before long he was courted by Rabo.”
This team has a long history, one that isn’t afraid to invest in talent from near and far. Now that Denis Menchov has gone elsewhere (after finishing third in the Tour last year) it’s opened things up for the homegrown talent like Gesink and Mollema. Still, the bank has opted for some foreigners to strengthen their roster. One of the nicest guys on a bike, Luis Léon Sanchez, has signed up, as has Matti Breschel… although the Dane has been plagued with injury and is yet to race in the blue and orange.
Gesink has been put on notice early: he will be the leader of the squad come July. With Alpe d’Huez back on the itinerary, Dutch fans now have a reason to return to the mountain that was once a summer-time mecca for orange-clad wielersport fans: a climber who could possibly claim a title.
by Rob Arnold