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Mitsubishi-Jartazi goes Estonian

The nation of Estonia is entering the professional peloton – the Professional Continental Team Mitsubishi-Jartazi presented itself as an Estonian team at its presentation Tuesday in Lochristi, Belgium. The team features 24 riders from seven different nations.

Main sponsor automaker Mitsubishi has connections to the Estonian cycling federation and co-sponsor Jartazi (sportswear) also wanted to extend to that part of the world. "It will be difficult to be as good as last year," said sport director Jef Braeckevelt. "We had no less than 18 wins [in 2007]. Now we must do without our French sprinter Dennis Flahaut, but we can make up for that with the Dutch riders Stefan van Dijk and Hans Dekkers. They must defend our colours in the mass sprints."

The team already has its first win of the season, as Maxime Vantomme won the third stage of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo Ondimba in Africa earlier this month.

"I hope that the rest of the team will live up to this performance," Braeckevelt said. He would like to win such a "prestigious" race as Dwars door Vlaanderen, GP Cerami, Dreidaagse von West-Vlaanderen or 4 Jours de Dunkerque. "I think our team has the depth to be even stronger than last year. Perhaps we will aim for 20 wins this year."

The biggest name on the team is Frank Vandenbroucke, who has a history of difficulties. "Of course I hope that he does well. Who wouldn't do that? But we must wait and see how he feels," said Braeckevelt. The 33 year-old said "My ambition for 2008 is to be competitive after rehabilitating my left knee, which is still taking up my time. I don't want to pin myself down by saying I will win this race or the other." He continued, "I have a serious hunger for competition, but I will not force myself. I hanker now to return to the 'fight.' I will never love training, but I know what I have to do for my condition."

For the team's full roster see the Cyclingnews Teams Database.