Full-on for neo-pro Rabon

Frantisek Rabon's first pro year, with T-Mobile was supposed to be a learning year, a chance to...

Frantisek Rabon's first pro year, with T-Mobile was supposed to be a learning year, a chance to slowly gain experience and get to know the ProTour circus by riding smaller stage races and one day races. But, as so often happens, it didn't work out that way.

Rabon, a 23 year-old Czech, got a last minute call to replace ailing team-mate Bram Schmitz in the Giro d'Italia, where he was also the very first rider to start the opening stage time trial.

"I was absolutely nervous. All cameras were pointed at me - unbelievable," he said. He had one advantage, though - roommate Serguei Gonchar helped the youngster cope with the pressures of his first Grand Tour. Against expectations, Rabon finished the Giro, ending up 147th out of 150, over four hours down on winner Ivan Basso.

The Giro experience was then followed by a full schedule of racing: GP Triberg, GP Kanton Argau, the Eindhoven team time trial, the Tour of Austria, Rund um die Hainleite, the Sparkassen-Giro Bochum, the GP Ouest-France and the Tour of Poland.

But his season is still not finished, as he has two more races to ride: the time trial and the road race in Salzburg.

"Of course, the competition in Austria will be fierce," said Rabon, who had ridden the world's twice as a junior and once as an under-23 rider. "Riders like Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini or Alexandre Vinokourov are the favourites for the road race. For me, it's about gathering experience.

"I will give it my best in the time trial," said Rabon, who picks team-mate Michael Rogers as the favourite. "He's a fantastic rider and a great guy to boot. I'd like him to win yet again. Though, of course, you shouldn't count me out as a serious contender either!" he joked.

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