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Last chance for Rabobank in Murcia

2009 Murcia champion Denis Menchov finished second in the time trial.

2009 Murcia champion Denis Menchov finished second in the time trial. (Image credit: Bosco Martin)

Rabobank took its third second place in a Tour of Murcia stage on Saturday, as Denis Menchov finished second in the time trial. Earlier in the race, sprinter Graeme Brown had finished second in the first and second stages.

Menchov, who won the race last year, finished the 22km time trial 33 seconds behind winner Frantisek Rabon of HTC-Columbia, who also took over the general lead. Menchov is second overall, 38 seconds down.

Rabobank Directeur Sportif Adri Van Houwelingen was surprised at the outcome on Saturday. “The difference between Rabon and the rest of the field is almost absurdly high", he said on the team's website. “Certainly we thought Rabon would ride for the GC yesterday, but we didn't consider him a danger. Everyone assumed he would lose some time on the climb, but he didn't.”

In general, though, the team was happy with Menchov's performance. “We mainly drew our comparisons with Wiggins and Klöden,” Van Houwelingen said. Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) finished third, at 48 seconds, and Andreas Klöden of RadioShack was fourth, 52 seconds down. He called those two riders “real specialists for this discipline. More so than Menchov, and yet he rides away from them. That's good, even if it is so early in the season."

For Sunday's closing stage, the Dutch ProTour team expects another mass sprint finish, and this time they expect to finish higher than second. “We will bring Graeme Brown into position,” Van Houwelingen promised.

At least this time, Brown will not be beaten again by Robert Hunter. The South African dropped out of the third stage to attend the birth of his second child.