Rabobank down to five in Dauphiné

The Rabobank team, currently contesting the Dauphiné Libéré in France, is trying to keep its spirits...

The Rabobank team, currently contesting the Dauphiné Libéré in France, is trying to keep its spirits high after a turbulent start to the race. Prior to Tuesday's tough Stage 2 the team was struck an blow when Theo Eltink was unable to start due to the same stomach and intestinal problems that forced Marc de Maar to withdraw from the race after the prologue. Eltink and De Maar shared the same room in the first few days of the tour.

"It was also prevalent in the pack," explained team manager Erik Breukink. "Various riders already went home during the first couple of days due to illness. They all had similar symptoms as Marc and Theo."

Eltink will be hoping for a fast recovery as he has been selected to participate in his first Tour de France for the squad "Theo wanted to use the Dauphiné to demonstrate his skills in view of his pre-selection of the Tour," Breukink said. "Perhaps there are still some races scheduled that he can participate in. Switzerland? Could be, but it comes a little early of course. We will just need see what we can do."

Breukink hopes that his team will make it through the rest of the Dauphiné Libéré without any further illness, especially for captain Denis Menchov. "But you cannot prevent it," he added. "With a view to the future, but also because of this stage race, it is just a matter of hoping that they will be sufficiently protected against it. After all, we do not have a lot of options left anymore."

Of the remaining six cyclists, Rabobank will only be able to use five during the upcoming stages, which include major climbs such as the Mont Ventoux and Croix de Fèr. Graeme Brown, the team's designated sprinter, has complained about minor knee problems and was not able to keep up with the pace on the slightly uphill roads on Tuesday's stage. "Graeme was not doing as well as I hoped," commented Breukink. "That knee might have played a role, but the stage was harder than expected because the riders themselves made it a tough race."

Tuesday's stage saw four Rabobank riders in the main group, including Menchov who now sits in 21st place overall. While the team's leader is 33 seconds down on race leader Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance), with only nine seconds separating riders from third to 21st he is still very much in striking distance. "That is something we can build on," explained Breukink. "We basically have five men for the upcoming days, but they are all in good shape."

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