Russian challenger Denis Menchov claims he has the form to finally give his Rabobank team a reason to cheer during the Tour de France this month.
With the July 3-25 race starting in Holland on Saturday, Rabobank would like nothing better than to carry the public’s fervor for the race right on through the Alps and Pyrénées.
Menchov won the Giro d’Italia last year but went on to have a miserable yellow jersey campaign in 2009, finishing down in 43rd place overall as Alberto Contador went on to humble all of his rivals in the mountains.
But with a number of top-ten finishes on his list, including a third place finish in 2008, the 32-year-old Russian cannot be discounted.
Although many Dutch eyes will be on Rabobank’s up and coming yellow jersey contender Robert Gesink, Menchov ─ who failed to impress at last month’s Criterium du Dauphiné ─ insists he still has something to offer.
“I wasn’t in good form at the Dauphiné last month, but my form is starting to come good now,” said the Russian, who has also won two editions of the Vuelta a España. “I know that I’m one of the top GC riders out there ─ there are not a lot of riders who can win major Tours, so I’m not worried.”
Climbing specialist Gesink looked strong in last month’s Tour of Switzerland where he took the leader’s jersey, albeit briefly, after an impressive attack in the mountains.
But he has warned fans of the orange and blue-clad squad not to hedge its bets on him challenging for the yellow jersey just yet.
“I’m only 24 years old and so I’ve not really reached my prime as a stage racer yet, I’ve still got a few years to go,” said Gesink.
“That doesn’t mean I haven’t been working hard or will be trying my best, but my main aim this year is to get as much experience as possible for the future.”