Rabobank's Thomas Dekker, overall winner of this year's Tirreno Adriatico, will participate in the Tour de France for the first time this year. The young Dutchman, who finished a very respectable 19th in Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, wants to get to know the 'Grande Boucle' in view of obtaining what many say lies within Dekker's reach: a Tour de France overall victory.
But the 21 year-old knows that this won't come around too soon. "I'm looking forward to my first Tour this summer," Dekker told Sportwereld. "I want to achieve a good prologue and do well in the two time trials, too. Then, I hope to be in the right breakaway one day, but my main task is to be there for our leaders, Menchov and Rasmussen. I give myself another three years to go for the general classification."
The tall time triallist knows he has to improve his climbing to count as an overall Tour de France contender, which is why he is now under the wing of both experienced and doubted cycling trainer Luigi Cecchini, who also looks after the likes of Jan Ullrich, Alessandro Petacchi, Juan Antonio Flecha and Fabian Cancellara. "It was a choice I made with my manager Jaak Hanegraaf," said Dekker, who is outspoken on the subject and stands by his decision. "This 62 year-old scientist knows everything about cycling training, and I aim to achieve the greatest in my discipline. He is a second father to me. When I go back to Tuscany in May, I'll buy an apartment in Lucca.
"I want to have a real go at the Tour in 2008," he continued. "I will only rest when I have a Grand Tour on my palmarès, when I'll have put my mark on the cycling of the next ten years."
Looking further into the future, Dekker doesn't exclude leaving his Rabobank squad. "I had a contract until the end of this year," he said. "I renewed it for one season. Rabobank would have liked to keep me until 2008, but I didn’t want that. I need to stay true to myself. When I'm 24, I have to slowly be able to lead a team."