Maybe a good omen for Rabobank's fortunes in the Brabantse Pijl was the team's analysis of events after the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen on Saturday. While Erik Dekker beat Ivan Basso and Andrei Grivko in the sprint on the opening stage of the Critérium International, their best-placed rider in the E3 Prijs was Juan Antonio Flecha, who crossed the line in 18th place.
Flecha did honour his nickname 'the Spanish Flandrien' by being in the thick of things for a long time - that was until Tom Boonen decided to have a go at it. "That's the only positive thing in this race for us," sports director Frans Maassen said afterwards. "We lost Oscar, Joost got sick and Jukka's completely not in form. On top of that, we missed the first attack when a group of 26 riders rode away. We had to sacrifice four men to straighten things again. We were only 70km into the race and we only had two riders left, Flecha and Horrillo."
Maassen, however, remained positive: "We are sitting at the diner table with good morale anyway. Flecha and Dekker are our leaders for Ronde Van Vlaanderen next week. Flecha is doing a good job here and Dekker won in France. So there aren't just dark clouds hanging above us. We are going for Oscar on Sunday; and for Flecha it will be an excellent training for next week." according to Frans Maassen."
Sure enough, Rabobank's fortunes changed at the Brabantse Pijl; Freire and Flecha placed themselves in the winning move with the triple world champion coming out on top, Flecha finishing fourth and the team's optimism back on track for next Sunday's Ronde. Team management had considered replacing Michael Boogerd with Marc Wauters or Jan Boven, but the change wasn't executed in the end because both riders want to start in the Driedaagse van de Panne, which begins on Tuesday.
Courtesy Sabine Sunderland