Erik Breukink has wished Denis Menchov all the best for the future after the Russian stage race rider left Rabobank after six years with the Dutch squad. Menchov will ride for the new Geox team with Carlos Sastre, but Breukink, is confident that Rabobank will continue to perform well in major Tours with the likes of talented young riders Robert Gesink and Bauke Mollema.
“Denis leaving us is not that unexpected,” Breukink told Cyclingnews.
“We knew for some time that it was a possibility so when it came it wasn’t a big surprise. We had him for six years and he had some great results with us and signed off with a great Tour. If you look at the history books he’s the best Grand Tour rider we’ve had.”
Menchov joined the team in 2005 and while the likes of Michael Boogerd, Peter Luttenburger, Levi Leipheimer all faltered in major Tours while with Rabobank, the mercurial Russian went on to win two editions of the Vuelta, one Giro d’Italia, and twice finish on the Tour de France podium in 2008 and 2010.
A change in direction suited both Rabobank and Menchov. The 32-year-old Russian receiving a substantial offer from Geox, while Rabobank has decided it is time to put their faith behind home-grown talents, Robert Gesink and Bauke Mollema. Gesink finished sixth in this year’s Tour, while Mollema has made steady progress, finishing 12th in this year’s Giro.
“For our future we have riders like Gesink and Mollema and some very talented young riders coming through. Denis is of that age where for him it’s an opportunity he has to take. It works for both parties and there are no hard feelings. We’re happy with him and what he did for us,” said Breukink.
“He was the most successful Grand Tour rider we had. He did some really special things for us. He was happy here though; otherwise he wouldn’t not have stayed with us for us long.”
Despite a reshuffle in the team, Breukink isn’t about to put pressure on Gesink, who at just 24 is the best stage race hopeful the Dutch have had for many years.
“You don’t put pressure on a guy like Gesink,” Breukink insisted. “He’s developing and he’s shown that he can go well in the Tour de France and we’ll keep on working with him. He puts enough pressure himself so there’s no need in us doing that for him. He’s a really ambitious rider and he’ll grow a little bit more.”
With the transfer market at its most active for many years, Rabobank are still looking to strength their line-up for next year. The team has already signed Classics specialist Matti Breschel, while a number of riders could follow Menchov and go in the opposite direction.
“We’re still looking on the market and there’s s lot of things going on. What we want is to make a strong overall team. You can’t do it with just Gesink and Mollema you need strong riders around them,” said Breukink.
One rider that has been linked with the team since the Tour de France is Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez. It was rumoured that he’d signed a contract with Rabobank as early as the first rest day in the Tour but is also under pressure to stay in Spain after Caisse d’Epargne announced Movistar as the team’s new sponsor. Breukink insisted that no announcement should be expected soon.
“He’s a very good rider but there’ nothing official to announce now. There’s no more to say on that topic for now. We’ve had negotiations with lots of riders and he’s one of the riders we’ve talked to but we talk to a lot of riders.”
Menchov and Sanchez are expected to clash at the Vuelta a España, which begins in Seville on August 28. The Spanish Grand Tour will be Menchov's last major race with Rabobank.