By Andrew Hood
With Lance Armstrong, Carlos Sastre, Damiano Cunego and Ivan Basso already confirmed to start the centenary celebration of the corsa rosa, another big name has announced that he will race the 2009 Giro d’Italia.
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is the latest to confirm his presence in the Giro, set to begin May 9 in Venice.
“Why would we want to change the program?” asked Rabobank sport director Erik Breukink in the Dutch daily De Telegraaf. “We saw last year the double worked well, so this year we’ll follow the same program, with the Giro before the Tour.”
Last year, Rabobank team brass realized that Menchov always seemed to ride well in the second grand tour of his calendar. While the Russian all-rounder seemed to struggle in the Tour de France, he would do well in the Vuelta a España after putting a three-week tour into his legs.
That notion played out when the team considered Menchov’s 2005 and 2007 seasons, which he won the Vuelta each year following the Tour.
This year, the team decided that Menchov would race the Giro ahead of the Tour, and the strategy paid off.
Menchov finished fifth overall in the 2008 Giro in what was a preparation race ahead of a career-best fourth at the Tour de France; he could get bumped to third following the doping positive of Bernard Kohl.
Most of the top Italian names are expected to line up for the Giro, but defending champion Alberto Contador (Astana) has already confirmed he will skip his title defense and focus instead on the 2009 Tour.