The Rabobank team is the first major squad to announce its line-up for this year's Tour de France that begins in exactly one month on July 3rd in Rotterdam.
The team management have selected five Dutch riders: Robert Gesink, Lars Boom, Koos Moerenhout, Laurens ten Dam and Maarten Tjallingii, plus Spaniards Juan Manuel Garate, Oscar Freire and Germany's Grischa Niermann. Russia's Denis Menchov completes the starting nine and will be team leader with Gesink. Pieter Weening and Bram Tankink have been named as reserves.
The early announcement will free the riders of a pressure to perform in the weeks before the Tour de France, technical director Erik Breukink explained. "It's important that the riders know as soon as possible where they stand. It's good for the preparation and reduces stress to a minimum."
While the 2010 Tour de France will be the tenth ride for team leader Menchov, Boom and Tjallingii will make their Tour debut on home roads. Gesink will be at the start for the second time, but the lanky climber was unable to gain much experience at his first Tour last year as he had to pull out with a broken wrist after stage five.
"With Menchov and Gesink, we have two strong leaders, and two young Dutch talents that will be supported by specialists on their respective territories. I think that we have found a strong combination," said sports director Adri van Houwelingen.
While Menchov, Gesink, Boom, Freire, Garate, Ten Dam and Niermann were certain of being included in the Tour squad, Moerenhout and Tjallingii were added later. "Koos was going to race the Giro as preparation but unfortunately this was not possible [due to respiratory infection - ed.]," continued Breukink. "He is now completely healed and we know his worth. Koos can be used on different terrains. Tjallingii is a top team player. He's shown last year at the Giro what he can do when the situation around the team's leader needs extra efforts. He's physically very strong."
The team management is also very confident in its top rider and three-time Grand Tour winner Denis Menchov, who placed third overall at the Tour de France in 2008. Menchov, who suffered from bronchitis in early May, is scheduled to ride the Dauphiné Libéré next week. "In Romandie, Denis was still racing on a very high level. That form can't be gone suddenly," said Breukink. "We know that he is training hard right now. On Sunday he'll start the Dauphiné and there is still one training camp at altitude after that. Denis will be in top shape."
The team is preparing in different locations for the Tour. Gesink, Boom, Ten Dam, Niermann and Garate are currently at a training camp in altitude in the Sierra Nevada and will recon the stages in the Pyrenees this week-end. Gesink, Ten Dam, Niermann, Garate and Freire will ride the Tour de Suisse, while Menchov, Moerenhout and Tjallingii will line up at the Dauphiné this Sunday. Boom will race the Delta Tour and Ster Elektrotour as preparation.
The two team directors expect the double leadership between Menchov and Gesink to benefit the team, just as it has for Liquigas in the Giro d'Italia. "There are not many teams that have two riders of this level for the general classification. In the Giro, Liquigas showed with Basso and Nibali how this can bear results," said Van Houwelingen.
Sports director Frans Maassen agreed, also bearing in mind psychological factors. "I think the shared pressure will work out well for the two of them," he added, saying that Gesink was already very strong, too. "Maybe we will have to hold him back a little in Switzerland, instead of having to motivate him."
The complete Rabobank roster for the 2010 Tour de France is: Robert Gesink, Denis Menchov, Juanma Garate, Oscar Freire, Lars Boom, Laurens ten Dam, Koos Moerenhout, Maarten Tjallingii and Grischa Niermann. Reserves: Pieter Weening and Bram Tankink.