By Brecht Decaluwé in Brest
The Rabobank team may have one of the top contenders for the Tour's overall, but it has also been busy dealing with several non-Tour related business matters. The team announced Friday that it has negotiated to extend the contract of team leader Denis Menchov for two more years. The team's management is also dealing with agitation from Thomas Dekker about his non-selection for the Tour, and the settlements of the several lawsuits from former rider Michael Rasmussen. And all of that on the eve of the Tour de France
Team manager Harry Knebel – who joined the management for business decision in March – explained to Cyclingnews why Rabobank decided to keep the Russian rider while they have a lot of talented riders themselves. "Menchov can keep the pressure off young guys like Robert Gesink in the Grand Tours. The youth has the future, but we can't redeem their future by bringing them in too early," Knebel said.
Menchov himself was a happy man, although it was hard to read that from his body language. "It is good because I don't have to worry about my future going into the Tour de France. No major changes were necessary. I feel good in this team. It's good for both parties," Menchov reacted on his contract extension.
Menchov will not focus on the task at hand, which is doing well in the general classification of the Tour de France. "I don't have too much stress. I have some, but I try to stay relaxed. I'm ambitious and I think that I can win the Tour de France," Menchov claimed.
Knebel played down the non-selection of one of the team's young talents, Thomas Dekker, for the Tour squad – a decision which caused a lot of commotion in The Netherlands. "Dekker was not selected solely on basis of his current form; that was the only reason." The decision was taken after consultation of the several sportif directors from the team, but Menchov had a say in it. "We know he's a good rider, and especially a good climber, but he's not in a good condition. That's why we – together – decided not to take him to the Tour. I talked with the sportif directors about it, but I didn't make the decision," Menchov explained.
Rumours spread that Dekker was angry and would be looking for another team, but Knebel said that the team intends to keep Dekker for the rest of his contract. "There is still one and a half years of contract, and we from Rabobank have the intention to continue, for now," Knebel said.
Knebel has not, however, been able to iron out the situation with Dekker. He began to say the rider was not approachable, but corrected himself. "I meant that it is hard to contact him. Let's say that he's not picking up his phone too well."