Dutch team calls time after 17 years
For 17 years, the riders of Rabobank wore the blue and orange kit of the Dutch bank in the professional peloton. Over that time, the team went from the highs of three Grand Tour titles to the low of removing the leader of the Tour de France from the race due to doping charges. In mid-October 2012 it all came to an end.
1996: Rabobank takes over sponsorship of the Novel team, with Jan Raas continuing as team manger. Theo de Rooj and Adrie van Houwelingen are directeurs sportifs, and Leon van Bon, Erik Dekker, Johan Bruyneel, Rolf Sorensen and Michael Boogerd are among the team's star names. Boogerd takes Rabobank's first Tour de France stage win at Aix-les-Bains, while Sorensen adds another at Super Besse.
1997: Sorensen takes Rabobank's first classics victory, winning the Tour of Flanders. The Dane leads the World Cup for much of the season before a broken wrist ends his challenge.
1998: Dutch champion Boogerd rides to 5th overall in a Tour de France dominated by the fall-out from the Festina Affair.
1999: Propelled by a powerful Rabobank team, Boogered wins Paris-Nice and later out-sprints Lance Armstrong to win Amstel Gold Race. Robbie McEwen wins the final stage of the Tour de France.
2000: Richard Groenendaal wins the cyclo-cross Worlds for the Netherlands while Sven Nys stokes the ire of the Belgian media by refusing to chase down his Rabobank teammate. Erik Dekker wins a remarkable three stages at the Tour de France, while Leon Van Bon adds another for good measure.
2001: Erik Dekker wins Amstel Gold Race ahead of Lance Armstrong and takes the final overall World Cup standings. Along with Marc Wauters, Dekker is one of two Rabobank stage winners at the Tour de France.
2002: Levi Leipheimer joins the team from US Postal Service and finishes in 8th place at the Tour de France. Boogerd takes stage victory at La Plagne following a lengthy solo break, while Karsten Kroon also helps himself to a win.
2003: Raas is abruptly removed as team manager and replaced by Theo de Rooj. Oscar Freire arrives at the team from Mapei, while former mountain biker Michael Rasmussen arrives from CSC and wins a stage at the Vuelta a España.
2004: Freire wins Milan-San Remo in March and follows up with victory in the world championships road race in Verona at the end of the season.
2005: Denis Menchov arrives from Iles Baleares and wins the Vuelta a Espana after original winner Roberto Heras tests positive for EPO. Rasmussen wins a stage and the king of the mountains jersey at the Tour de France, but falls from 3rd to 7th overall following a calamitous performance in the final time trial.
2006: Rasmussen again wins a stage and the king of the mountains at the Tour de France, while Denis Menchov wins at Pla d'Adet en route to 5th place overall. Freire wins two stages during a campaign that also sees him win Brabantsje Pijl and Vattenfalls Cyclassics.
2007: Michael Rasmussen's tenure in the yellow jersey is mired in controversy as the Dane is shown to have missed four out-of-competition doping controls in the lead up to the race, and also to have lied about his whereabouts. He claims to have been in Mexico when he was actually training in Italy. The facts emerge during the second half of the Tour, and Rabobank removes him from the race after the 16th stage. Rasmussen is subsequently fired from the team, and serves a two-year ban. He has since sued for wrongful dismissal, with the next court action due shortly.
De Rooj resigns as team manager in light of the Michael Rasmussen affair and Harald Knebel is named new general manager.
Meanwhile, Oscar Freire wins Milan-San Remo while Menchov wins thew Vuelta a Espana.
2008: Menchov finishes 4th at the Tour de France, while Freire wins a stage and the green jersey. Freire also triumphs at Gent-Wevelgem, while Lars Boom is cyclo-cross world champion.
2009: Denis Menchov wins the Giro d'Italia.
On the eve of the Tour de France a retroactive test reveals that former Rabobank rider Thomas Dekker had returned an out-of-competition positive doping control for EPO in December 2007, while still at the team. Dekker had left Rabobank in August 2008 amid rumours of irregular blood values.
2010: Three Rabobank rider are named in the HumanPlasma affair, a blood-doping operation based in Vienna, Austria. Michael Boogerd, Thomas Dekker and Michael Rasmussen are all questioned in connection with the matter.
Oscar Freire wins Milan-San Remo for the third time and also wins Paris-Tours. Denis Menchov finishes third at the Tour de France, while Robert Gesink finishes 5th.
2011: Pieter Weening wins a stage of the Giro d'Italia at Orvieto, while new signing Luis Leon Sanchez takes a stage win at Saint-Flour during the Tour de France.
2012: Theo de Rooij claims that the team “tolerated” doping while he was at the team.
Adri van Houwelingen and Erik Breukink are released from their management positions for the coming year.
As part of the USADA Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong case, Levi Leipheimer discloses that he doped while at the Dutch team, saying “ I used prohibited substances and/or prohibited methods ... during 2002 through 2004 while on the Rabobank Cycling Team....”
Carlos Barredo is suspended after the UCI requested that a doping procedure be opened against him based on the blood profile in his biological passport.
Rabobank announces that it will cease sponsorship of its men's and women's professional teams as of the end of the year.
The team had ten national road champions over the years, and 20 national time trial titles, for the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Finland and Spain.
The team rode the Tour de France every year, and had 24 stage wins. Erik Dekker and Michael Rasmussen both won four stages, and Rasmussen won the King of the Mountains ranking in 2005 and 2006. Freire won three stages over the years and won the green jersey in 2008.
The team had more luck in the other Grand Tours. Denis Menchov won the Vuelta a Espana in 2005 and 2007, and the Giro d'Italia in 2009.
Other major wins:
Paris-Nice (1999), Tirreno-Adriatico (2002, 2005, 2006), Tour of California (202), Milan-San Remo (2004, 2007 2010), Gent-Wevelgem (2008), Tour of Flanders 1997), Amstel Gold Race (1999, 2001)
Top riders over the years:
Leon van Bon (1996-2000, 2007)
Johan Bruyneel (1996-1997)
Erik Dekker (1996-2006)
Michael Boogerd (1996-2007)
Juan Antonio Flecha (2006-2009)
Oscar Freire (2003-2011)
Robert Gesink (2006-2012)
Vlatcheslav Ekimov (1996)
Levi Leipheimer (2002-2004)
Robbie McEwen (1996-1999)
Denis Menchov (2005-2010)
Michael Rasmussen (2003-2007)
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