Denis Menchov and Robert Gesink will lead Rabobank’s hopes with a strong squad for the Tour de France.
The Russian has won two Vueltas a España and one Giro d’Italia and he’s hoping to become the first Russian to win the Tour. Menchov skipped defending his Giro crown this year to come into the Tour with fresher legs, but was hampered in May with a bout with the flu.
“I am feeling better and I expect to be OK for the Tour,” Menchov said at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné. “The goal is to do as well as possible in the Tour. There will be a lot of rivals this year. I see it as a very competitive field for this year’s Tour.”
Menchov, 32, finished second at the Vuelta a Murcia and second at the Tour de Romandie in early May, but later came down ill.
Menchov didn’t look his sharpest during the Dauphiné, but Rabobank brass were pleased to see their man finish fifth within one minute of the winner on a long, individual time trial stage. Menchov later sat up on the climbing stage to Alpe d’Huez and didn’t go too deep because he was just returning to competition following a long break.
If Menchov is the team’s GC guarantee, the Dutch-backed squad is also hoping for big things from Gesink.
Time trialing remains the climbing specialist’s handicap, and Gesink lost a good shot at victory in the Tour de Suisse last week after dropping from first to fifth in the final-day time trial.
Gesink looked sharp, however, taking a dramatic stage victory in the Swiss Alps in an epic, six-hour-plus day of racing for his first win on the 2010 season. Gesink, who didn’t make it through the first week in his Tour debut last year, will be hoping to win a mountain stage and try to finish in the top 10.
Behind the two GC leaders will be Óscar Freire, who be acting as a free agent in the sprints. The three-time world champion is always reliable in the mass sprints without much help from his teammates and shows signs that he’s back following a sub-par 2009 season. So far in 2010, he’s won Milan-San Remo and five other early-season races.
Also making his Tour debut will be former cyclocross world champion Lars Bloom. Tall, aggressive and ambitious, Boom will be on the prowl for a stage win in the first week in stages across Holland, Belgium and northern France and again in transition stages between the Alps and Pyrénées. Boom won a stage last year in the Vuelta a España in his grand tour debut and will have his freedom to attack.
Helping in the mountains will Spanish veteran Juanma Garate, winner on Mont Ventoux last year.
Rabobank for Tour de France