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Freire to lead Rabobank in Giro d'Italia debut

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Oscar Freire pumps his fists at the finish

Oscar Freire pumps his fists at the finish (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Rabobank) climbs well

Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Rabobank) climbs well (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Rabobank's Bouke Mollema was all smiles.

Rabobank's Bouke Mollema was all smiles. (Image credit: Bert Geerts/

Oscar Freire will ride the Giro d'Italia for the first time in his career this year as the Dutch ProTour team looks for success in the sprints, particularly during the early stages of the race that will be held in the Netherlands. 

Freire, 34, will look to add a Giro stage win to his long list of Grand Tour victories. He has won seven stages at the Vuelta a Espana, four stages in the Tour de France and so could join the exclusive club of riders who have won stages in all three Grand Tours. He has four wins so far this season, including his third success in Milan-San Remo.

However the three-time World Champion will face some stiff competition at the Giro. HTC-Columbia is sending sprinter Andre Greipel, who has already racked up 11 wins this season. The German has ridden the Giro only once before, in 2008, winning one stage while helping set-up sprints for teammate Mark Cavendish. Alessandro Petacchi also has to be an overwhelming favourite for the Giro sprints based on past performance. The Lampre-Farnese Vini rider has won 21 Giro stages and one points jersey during his career. Freire will also face Garmin-Transitions sprinter Tyler Farrar who has a strengthened lead out train this year after being shut out by Cavendish last year in the Giro. Freire will have Graeme Brown to help him in the sprints, with the Australian giving Rabobank an alternative option in the sprints if Freire is not at his best. 

This year's Giro includes five high-mountain stages and Rabobank will look to Columbian Mauricio Ardila and Dutch rider Bauke Mollema on the climbs. Mollema is making his Grand Tour debut. Despite winning the 2009 Giro d'Italia, Denis Menchov is skipping the race this year in order to concentrate on the Tour de France.

Russia's Dmitriy Kozontchuk and Dutch riders Jos van Emden, Rick Flens, Koos Moerenhout and Peter Weening round out the Dutch squad.

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