The Vuelta a España will start out with a definite Dutch flavour this year, with the first three stages taking place within the borders of The Netherlands. Rabobank hopes to take advantage of the 'home-town start' and will look to road racing newcomer Lars Boom to do well in the opening prologue, but warned this week that captain Robert Gesink won't be aiming for a podium place.
The Vuelta opens on Saturday, August 29, with a prologue on the Assen motorcycle grand prix course. The next two stages stay in the country, and the fourth stage starts in Venlo and ends in Liege, Belgium, before an early rest day on which the peloton will transfer to Spain.
Gesink will be the team's captain for the race, but is still recovering from a broken wrist suffered in a crash during stage five of the Tour de France. "I saw he was not too disappointed after his fall in the Tour," said Rabobank Directeur Sportif Erik Breukink, at a press conference this week. "I think that even as he was suffering to finish that stage he was thinking of the Vuelta. That is typical of Robert, he is always looking ahead."
The young Dutch rider last year finished seventh overall in the Vuelta, and established himself as one of the race's top climbers. Breukink said it "would be nice" if the 23-year-old could win a mountain stage this year. "At the same time Robert really knows that no one gives anything away. The others know him too well for that. Robert is just one of the best climbers in the Vuelta."
He does not expect to see Gesink on the final podium, though. "That's too much to ask," he said. "But surprises can always happen, of course. Let him surprise us."
Another 23-year-old Dutch rider will this year be making his Grand Tour debut, Lars Boom. The current cyclo-cross World Champion has already established himself on the road, winning the Tour of Belgium earlier this summer. He will be concentrating on the prologue, as well as simply gaining general experience.
"I would advise him not to look too far ahead, just take it day by day, " Breukink said. "Lars is completely concentrated on the prologue, I am curious [as to how he will do]."
One Rabobank rider who will not be at the start is Nick Nuyens. He had hoped to ride it as preparation for the World Championships, "but the team management preferred to see me in the autumn classics like Paris-Brussels and the GP van Wallonie. I understand their position, because there are more opportunities to score."
Follow Cyclingnews on Twitter for the very latest coverage of events taking place in the cycling world twitter.com/cyclingnewsfeed