2009 SUMMARY: The Dutch super team clinched 26 wins in ‘09. The stand-out performance was Denis Menchov’s Giro victory, although the Russian paid the price for his fantastic effort there with a lacklustre showing at the Tour. Almost as valuable as Menchov’s Giro success, given the prestige and media coverage, was Juan Manuel Gárate’s Tour stage victory on the summit of Mont Ventoux. Lars Boom rounded things off with a powerful Vuelta stage win. The only down sides were Oscar Freire’s quiet year and the lack of Classics success, although Juan Antonio Flecha could have won Roubaix with better luck.
LOOKING AHEAD: Will Menchov opt to defend his Giro title on a very tough course or seek to come into the Tour a bit fresher? Given he’s a notch below the likely Tour contenders, it’s probable the Russian will aim for another pink jersey and leave Robert Gesink to focus on the Tour’s top 10. Freire’s form depends, as ever, on his fragile body. He has said this year will be his last and the Melbourne Worlds course looks well suited to him, so he may go out with a bang. Meanwhile, Nick Nuyens, Boom and Sebastian Langeveld look set to fill the gap left by Flecha for the Classics.
THE LINE-UP: The only arrivals are two young riders from Rabo’s Continental team. The key departures are those of the Sky-bound Flecha and Matthew Hayman. Respectively, the Spaniard was their most realistic prospect in the northern Classics and the Australian was one of their strongest domestiques. Breukink rightly feels he’s got enough talent in his squad to cover the loss of both.
ONE TO WATCH: Sebastian Langeveld was only a year old when Adri Van Der Poel gave the Dutch their last Tour of Flanders success. Now the 25-year-old Rabo powerhouse is the best hope of ending that long dry spell. Although yet to crack the top 10, Langeveld improved all through last year and will be among the dark horses for the Ronde, assuming he’s injury-free and in good form.