The young, seven-rider Rabobank team sent to the Tour of Utah can be proud of their week says team management. A stage win, the points jersey and a top-ten finish in the general classification were wrapped up by the squad led by ‘veteran’ Tom Leezer. Leezer may have been the oldest on the team at 26-years-old but with five of the riders aged 23 and under, he was certainly the elder statesman for the five-day race.
"Our goal was to win a stage, and that we did. Even on the hard mountain stages we fared well. It was by no means a bad stage race for our young up-and-comers," said sports director Frans Maasen.
Former U23 world road race champion Michael Matthews took confidence from the team’s second place ride in the team time trial as a reason to attack on the following stage. He rode into the stage 3 breakaway and while caught on the day’s final climb, he managed to hold on and then sprint for the win. Matthews remained attentive throughout the race and followed his main rival for the sprint jersey, Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) to ensure he did not take the lead.
"Matthews was ready to pay whatever price needed to be paid in order to defend his points jersey. Rory Sutherland was his only opponent, and when the Australian [Sutherland] went on the attack, Matthews and his teammate Bol followed," reported the team.
Steven Kruijswijk was the team’s rider for the general classification and rode impressively on the final day into Park City to move into the top-ten. Kruijswijk has been sitting in 12th-place prior to the fifth stage however, he was able to follow the group chasing the day’s eventual winner Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharm-Quickstep) up the long climb of Empire Pass. His second-place on the stage demonstrated his resolve after a demanding day.
"The finale was no joke and it was hot as hell, but their efforts were tremendous. Thanks to Lars Boom. We got up extra early in order to watch the Eneco Tour on the internet and the way in which he won was super inspiring for us," said Maasen.
Kruijswijk noted the effect the altitude played on the race. The team did not have time to acclimatise to the conditions like many of the other teams but Goos and Kelderman still managed to finish 4th and 5th respectively in the young rider classification.
"It definitely takes a while before you get used to the time difference and the altitude. That was not working in our favour. What is more, there were a number of American teams for which the Tour of Utah was their main race to win. They had all been at least on location for a week beforehand," said Kruijswijk.
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