Team Rabobank decided to take a chance this year and send Tour de France captain Denis Menchov to the Giro d'Italia. Their theory was that he has always done well in the Tour and then done even better in the Vuelta a España, winning the latter twice. So, they thought, instead of using the Tour in effect as a warm-up for the Vuelta, why not use the Giro as a warm-up for the Tour? And it worked out, with the Russian finishing fifth overall.
Even though Menchov got sick during the race, the team was satisfied with its gamble. "At least, the Giro has given Denis satisfaction," said Directeur Sportif Erik Breukink. "After the Kronplatz, when his cold was at its worst, he started to ride better on a daily basis. It is a very good sign that he recovered so well and quickly. He was amongst the best again in the final two mountain stages. His ability to recover is Denis's strongest characteristic. Here, it turned out to be optimal. That is great for the morale in this preparatory stage of the Tour."
The Giro wasn't strictly warm-up, Menchov would not at all have minded a podium place, and without his cold, might have achieved it. "That is a realistic assumption," said Breukink. "Perhaps things would have gone differently had he not had that cold. But, that is all in the game and we are not going to use it as an excuse. Half the pack has been ill. Other world-class riders have also experienced setbacks. We are content about this Giro. It was good and definitely encouraging for the Tour."
The race had an additional benefit, he noted, for the whole team. "The team did not ride around as anonymously as in other years. That was also a good development for the other riders. They had a captain, an objective. That became clear on the basis of the atmosphere in the team."
Not everything went well, though, and sprinter Graeme Brown came in for some criticism. "I found the way in which Graeme Brown started this Giro a disappointment. He was not well-prepared," said a disapproving Breuking. "You cannot expect to just ride yourself into shape in a tour such as this one. Graeme started off on the wrong foot in this tour and then it is impossible to turn that around, which also became reality later on." Brown was in a number of crashes in the first week of the race, he noted. Nonetheless, "he was not in a good condition before he experienced those setbacks, but we do not need to tell him that."(SW)