Dutch ProTour squad Rabobank is already sure of its spot in the 2008 Tour de France, with team manager Henri van der Aat confirming its participation to De Telegraaf. Van der Aat, who took over the squad's top spot from Theo de Rooy, confirmed that he had been promised a spot by Tour director Christian Prudhomme.
"The Tour considers Rabobank as one of the leading teams in the world and one that belongs at the Tour," Van de Aat said. "That was enough grounds to promise us a spot."
The news is reassuring for Rabobank, with the squad the centre of a massive controversy at this year's Tour. After a week of speculation surrounding Michael Rasmussen failure to follow anti-doping protocol, the Dane spectacularly dumped from the squad while holding the Tour's yellow leader's jersey by a comfortable margin. Just days after calling a press conference on the Tour's second rest day, where it announced its full support of Rasmussen, the Dutch team took him from the team hotel and accommodated him in an unknown location over night while it announced his sacking, then flew him by private charter back to his residence in Italy.
Furthermore every team's participation in the 2008 Tour was thrown into doubt last week when Prudhomme announced that a ProTour licence will not assure a starting position for any team. "No team is sure of a spot on the Tour," the Frenchman said at the 2008 Tour's route launch.
The move comes at the Grand Tour moves to distance itself from the ProTour structure. The actions follow months of disagreements between the UCI and the Grand Tour organizers. "No rider and no team has a guaranteed start at the 2008 Tour de France," added Patrice Clerc, the head of Tour organizer ASO, at the launch. "Only riders with a biological passport will start, that's all I can say. But we don't have any link whatsoever with the ProTour. Nobody will oblige us to line up certain teams."