Rabobank opened the spring Classics with a bang when Oscar Freire won his third Milan-San Remo, but after that victory the Dutch team faded into relative obscurity as they failed to bring in a single top-ten finish in any of the remaining Classics.
German rider Paul Martens came closest, finishing 11th in the Amstel Gold Race, and Freire was 12th in Gent-Wevelgem.
“We don't forget Oscar's win, but after that it was indeed not good,” said Rabobank technical director Erik Breukink's on Sunday.
The team had looked to Robert Gesink for victory in the Ardennes Classics, but the 23-year-old's chances were foiled by a cold. He finished 23rd in Amstel Gold Race, 15th in the Flèche Wallonne and 16th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“We cannot blame Robert,” Breukink said on the team's website. “He intended to peak this week. Usually he does well wherever he rides.”
The team's other hope was Lars Boom, but the former-Cyclo-cross World Champion proved no match for the 200 kilometre-plus races of the spring. His top finish in the Classics was 77th in the Tour of Flanders. He finished outside the time limit in Paris-Roubaix and did not finish the Amstel Gold Race.
Looking at the winners of this year's Classics, Breukink recognised a common theme. “All guys with great experience, all at a good age.” In contrast, Gesink and Boom are 23 and 24 years-old, respectively.
“You cannot have all the pressure on the shoulders of one man,” he said. “Of course we want to do better in the Classics. We tried to take the pressure off of Robert.”
Looking to the future, Breukink noted that signing a top rider “would be the easiest option. But that is not an option. Gesink, Boom and the guys have special qualities. They just need time.”
Gesink: "Not good but fighting"
Robert Gesink was done in by a simple cold, which was bad enough to slow him down and prevent him from accomplishing his goals in the Ardennes Week. “If you want to participate in these races, everything must be perfect,” he told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. “I'm not good, but I'm fighting.”
He had hoped for an improvement on Sunday in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but suffered further misfortune. He crashed on one of the narrow roads that typify the race. “Someone crashed into me. It wasn't too bad.” It was enough, however, to re-open an injury from the Tour of the Basque Country.
Near the end of the race, he finally got into into his own rhythm. “''After La Redoute, it was getting better. I couldn't compete for first place, but I kept on fighting.“
Gesink eventually finished 16th, one place behind teammate Paul Martens and as part of a ten-man group, 1:18 down on race winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana).