Racing in the United States may not have completely suited the strengths of Thomas Rabou but working for the National Race Calendar's top-ranked rider Francisco 'Paco' Mancebo was certainly a good place to be. Rabou spent two seasons with Competitive Cyclist and thought he would remain in the US for 2013 until his former team merged with Kenda/5-Hour Energy, underwent budget cuts and the promise to keep him in the squad could not be fulfilled.
Signing for OCBC Singapore and racing the Tour de Langkawi was certainly not where Rabou had expected to be late last year but coming back to the Asia circuit after seven years could be what the Dutchman needs. The Asia Tour is set to provide Rabou with plenty of racing within a new environment and offers a leadership role that he has missed for a number of seasons.
The experience of Rabou means he will be challenged to seek out results for himself this season and it's a role he's more than willing to take up.
"In a normal situation I would have stayed [at Competitive Cyclist] sure because they told me I could stay," Rabou told Cyclingnews.
"But then when there is a big budget cut then Mancebo doesn't have the influence anymore. Eventually I had to look for a new team and out of that news there is always new opportunities on the horizon.
"Luckily this team came for me in the right moment. My [now] teammate Sea Keong Loh helped me to get on board with this team so here I am racing the Tour de Langkawi," he added.
The Asia Tour is something which Rabou hasn't been apart of since riding for Marco Polo in 2006 – before he spent three years making his way through the ranks of the Rabobank teams and believes the complete change in race style and surrounds may prove to be the best thing for his career.
"It's going to be a programme that I haven't done for quite some time," said Rabou. "I can go for my own results in this team compared to what I did on the Rabobank team and On the Rivet [Competitive Cyclist] over the last few years.
"There's going to be new goals for me, new kinds of racing. I'm really excited. In 2006 I was on Marco Polo, the Chinese-based cycling team so now after seven years I'm back in Asia with an entirely Asian schedule.
"After this it's going to be mostly 2.2 races in South-East Asia. Those are the races I'm looking forward to because they are the ones that I have to get results, as much for myself and also the sponsors.
"In Asia it's always a week long of racing and 160-180k with lots of hills. It's the racing that suits me a lot better than the racing I did over the past two years in America. It's good for me."
Rabou explained that staying in the United States would have been the best solution as he had become more than accustomed to the NRC circuit but getting involved with a small team like the one based in Singapore also presents some great opportunities. The 29-year-old is truly enthused to be involved in a growing project like OCBC and Langkawi is one of the first races where he believes the team can build its reputation.
"The last three years in American was really settled and it would have been very easy for me to just extend my contract there and work for Paco [Mancebo] and now this year turns out to be a totally new challenge for me. Maybe that's what my career needs. Just mentally it's going to be all new and a fresh start," he said.
"Maybe on paper this is a small team but OCBC is one of the strongest banks in the world. They want to grow every year so I think this could be a really good project. I just hope to be part of it and build a team that has a good reputation in Asia and maybe in Europe as well.
The team's goals at Langkawi may differ greatly from the ProTeam and Pro-Continental squads who's job it is to obtain stage wins but Rabou says the entire group is motivated to prove it has a place in one of Asia's biggest races. Success is as much about exposure as it is results and Rabou says the team won't be sitting back and remaining anonymous.
"I just try to motivate the guys to race our bikes as hard as possible. We are not going to beat the top sprinters here and we are not going to beat the top climbers either so I try to motivate the guys to be in the break everyday. That's how you build a reputation for the team. No one really knows us yet.
"There's many Continental teams that sit back in the bunch and think they are going to beat the top sprinters. We just want to send a message that we want to ride out bikes as hard as possible and just be out there."
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