By Susan Westemeyer
Thomas Dekker hopes that he has put the injuries and illnesses of 2006 behind him, as he won the closing time trial Sunday in the Tour de Romandie, which shot him up into the overall lead. It was the 22 year-old's second ProTour victory.
Last season, he missed the Tour de France after coming down with a virus just days before the race started. When he returned to the peloton, he broke his hand in a crash in the Tour of Poland. Even this year started out with various illnesses, but by the time the Ardennes Classics rolled around, he was starting to get into shape. He did well in the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and LBL, but not well enough.
He came into his own last week though, in the Tour de Romandie. He was a close second in Saturday's Queen stage, and in fact filed a protest that winner Igor Anton had cut him off in the sprint finish. That protest was denied by the race jury. Disappointed to have lost, he still saw the stage positively, saying "I feel I have shown that I am the old Thomas again, the one the Netherlands lost last year right before the Tour de France. I had some left after the Classics and am thrilled I came to this course," according to rabobank.nl.
He made up for it with his dominating win in the time trial. Directeur Sportif Erik Dekker (no relation - ed.) said, "Thomas showed himself for the first time on previously unknown terrain. That gave a lot of confidence but you cannot know then if the time trial, his specialty, will earn him a first, second, or third place.
"I never worried about it, even when Savoldelli was faster in the first part of the time trial. He is strong in turns and in descending, but Thomas neatly won back time in the second part. That makes sense because yesterday [Saturday - ed.] he was stronger uphill than Savoldelli as well."
The elder Dekker added that the younger Dekker rode a nearly perfect race, "Like he had never done anything else. I saw he was really uptight before the race. I think Thomas is really glad that he now succeeded in matching a result to his good legs. Of course, he did not ask us two weeks ago if he could start here for no reason."
The youngster will now take a month's break. "After that I am going to Luxembourg, after that to Switzerland, and then I will be riding the Dutch Championships and the Tour de France."