By Greg Johnson The end of a three-week Grand Tour is always an opportunity for the riders and staff...
By Greg Johnson
The end of a three-week Grand Tour is always an opportunity for the riders and staff to relax and mingle, with many putting their hard-won endurance to good use on the Sunday evening. But not all teams will be celebrating and certainly for the Dutch squad, Rabobank, it was a Tour that promised so much, but delivered little.
Rabobank director sportif Erik Breukink confessed his squad was in no mood to celebrate the Tour de France's finish, with the Dutch squad enduring a difficult Grand Tour. The team was forced to defend its yellow jersey rider Michael Rasmussen throughout the second week of the Tour after the Dane failed to file his whereabouts to anti-doping officials on numerous occasions in the past 18 months, which led to his national federation dumping him from the country's Worlds squad. Rabobank then decided to sack Rasmussen while he was in the maillot jaune and looking likely to win the Tour.
"We obviously do not feel like partying," admitted Breukink. "There is admiration for the guys' persistence [in continuing after Rasmussen's sacking]. We have been hearing that all day. That is good because the negative reactions from the crowd here, even though there were not that many, had a severe impact. But that quickly quieted down. Respect came in its place and that is one the reasons why it is good that we stayed here to the end."
Despite the disappointment of watching the maillot jaune slip from the squad's possession, Breukink said he was proud of his rider's performance in defending the jersey during its stay at Rabobank. "The team was able to step it up a notch once we had it," he said. "The way the team functioned in the tough mountain stages was a revelation to me. Maybe for the guys too. Now they know they can do it. That might be this Tour's biggest gain for us. The team has had its breakthrough in a major tour as a strong collective on top level, and Thomas Dekker has confirmed his possibilities as a future Tour cyclist."
"Erik Dekker has already said it; the Rabo team was the strongest team in this Tour," he added. "I totally agree with that. In the last week-and-a-half we were constantly able to control the course. We dictated the events from the head of the pack. I was and am very proud of that. The unity and willpower the team displayed were unprecedented and impressive."
The squad's major backer, a Dutch banking corporation, is believed to be considering its future in the sport following the turbulent Tour.
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