Rabobank is going into the 2011 season determined to outdo its 2010 results, which saw the team win not only Milan-San Remo but a stage in each of the three Grand Tours. Eight newcomers, including Luis Leon Sanchez and Matti Breschel, are moving in to help fill the gap left by departing captain Denis Menchov.
The Dutch ProTeam made an early team presentation Wednesday at the Efteling amusement park. Eight new riders are replacing eight riders who have left, for a total of 27.
The team will be stronger, general manager Harold Knebel said, according to the ANP news agency. “We want to win more and are in a position to win," he said. While looking for a broad range of victories, the team's main highlight will be the Tour de France.
Despite the presence of the newcomers, Robert Gesink “is the absolute leader, and Sanchez knows that,” said sport director Erik Breukink. Gesink, whose father died recently as the result of a biking accident, “wants to show something beautiful this year,” Breukink said, and will go to the start of the Tour more motivated than ever. He finished sixth overall this year.
In addition to Sanchez and Breschel, other new riders for 2011 will include Carlos Barredo, Michael Matthews and Theo Bos. "Sanchez, Barredo and Breschel are guys who have proven they can win good races. If you look at Theo Bos and Michael Matthews, they are two fast people. I think the team is stronger than that of this year. On paper in any case," Breukink said.
Another fast man on the team is former world champion Oscar Freire. He was satisfied with his 2010 season, having won, amongst others, Milan-San Remo for the third time, but felt something was lacking. “It was not possible to win the most important race, the one in Australia, but I think I had a good season and I hope next year to become world champion again. Milan-San Remo is also very good for me, so I would like to do well there.”
Missing was newcomer Matti Breschel. The Dane, who is coming over from Saxo Bank, underwent recent knee surgery which is expected to hold him out of racing for several months. He had been scheduled to lead the team in the Spring Classics, but that is now questionable.
Michael Matthews was there to make his debut with the team. The reigning U23 world road champion could have signed anywhere, team spokesman Luuc Eisenga said, so why did he choose the Dutch team? “I talked to sport director Erik Breukink last year, and he just kept in touch with me all year,” Matthews said. “He mainly just stayed interested, and said if I wanted a good start as a young pro, he could give me some good races my first season.”
Bauke Mollema is looking forward to his first Tour de France this year, where he will be one of the main helpers for Gesink.
"I am not going for a good ranking, I understand that Robert needs support in the mountains. But when I first ride Alpe d'Huez, I think you can imagine. That is the Dutch mountain,” he said, according to De Telegraaf.
Illness cost him much of the 2009 season, so he was very happy with how things went this year. "I really like my 2010 breakthrough," he said. "It's always been a dream to be a good pro. Last season was a good step towards achieving that goal. And now the Tour. I am looking forward to it. It is one for climbers.”
Rabobank for 2011:
Carlos Barredo, Lars Boom, Theo Bos, Matti Breschel, Graeme Brown, Stef Clement, Rick Flens, Oscar Freire, Juan Manuel Garate, Robert Gesink, Steven Kruijswijk, Sebastian Langeveld, Tom Leezer, Paul Martens, Bauke Mollema, Michael Matthews, Grischa Niermann, Luis Leon Sanchez, Tom Jelte Slagter, Bram Tankink, Laurens Ten Dam, Maarten Tjallingii, Jos Van Emden, Denis Van Winden, Coen Vermeltfoort, Peter Weening and Maarten Wynants