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Rabobank under pressure

Dutch team Rabobank is going to the Tour de France with a strong squad on paper: Dutchmen Michael Boogerd, Erik Dekker, Thomas Dekker, Joost Posthuma and Pieter Weening; Juan Antonio Flecha and Oscar Freire (Spain), Denis Menchov (Russia) and Michael Rasmussen (Denmark). It should thus do well, especially as the 'Rabo renners' include several experienced Tour de France stage winners and Rasmussen won the Polkadot jersey last year, but team manager Theo de Rooij said his riders are under a lot of pressure to perform.

"If we don't deliver in the Tour, there will be a storm," De Rooij told the Telegraaf. Rabobank has not won a stage in the Giro d'Italia, and except for the wins in the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour de Suisse, has not yet shown all of its potential this first part of the season. But the team manager doesn't agree with the press all the way. "It wasn't that bad," he continued. "There is surely no talk of panic. If you look at the past, there is not that much difference with the last few years. We have never won a stage in the Giro d'Italia or in Romandie. The victory of Denis Menchov at the Mont Ventoux in the Dauphiné was a first for Rabobank in that race. If you look at the classics, we were there, too. Only three teams took the victories."

Mauricio Ardila, Rabobank's leader at the Giro d'Italia, impressed only for a certainly unexpected bad performance. "We are still looking for the reason of his bad riding," said De Rooij, adding that there was "nothing wrong" with the motivation of the riders. "We also have twelve riders whose contracts run out at the end of the year. They know that their new contracts depend on their performances. Maybe we didn't score that much, but during the Flemish campaign, our problem was that six or seven crucial riders were injured - you do notice that."

Looking forward to the Tour, the Dutchman was confident. "Our line-up is much better than last year," he added. "Then, Menchov lost out in the Dauphiné, and Freire was injured at home. Now, these leaders have won races in their preparation. And other guys also show increasing form. Of course, it will be the month of truth."

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