Team Rabobank had "a very successful year in the field of sports," said Rabobank team manager Erik Breukink in quite an understatement when reviewing the last few months. The season opened with Oscar Freire's second win in Milano-SanRemo and ended with Denis Menchov's overall victory in the Vuelta a España.
Freire brought in some other wins along the way, as did Australian Graeme Brown. After Milano, the next highlight was Thomas Dekker's win in the Tour de Romandie. The 22 year-old won the closing time trial to take the overall win, moving up from third place.
The team had great hopes going into the Tour de France with two captains, Denis Menchov and Michael Rasmussen. "That looked promising, but it turned out to be a big disappointment for us," Breukink said, continuing his understated tone. Rasmussen took the leader's jersey in the eighth stage when he blasted the field on the way to the mountaintop finish at Tignes. He held on to it for eight stages before the team pulled him out of the race and fired him for having lied about his whereabouts before the Tour.
But Rabo didn't buckle under, kept going and came back with Menchov's victory in the Vuelta, which was topped off by Freire's three sprint wins in the second, fifth, and sixth stages. "That was a very special performance, the highlight. How many Dutch teams will win such a major tour?," asked Breukink.
Looking to next season, he will be counting on Thomas Dekker, especially in the Classics, saying "If he can improve himself a little bit more, he will be able to compete for victories. Then indeed we have a successor in our own team for Michael Boogerd, even though Thomas is obviously a very different type of rider."