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By Andrew Hood
In Palermo, Italy
Rabobank is trying a new approach this year for its quiet but steady Russian GC threat, Denis Menchov.
After watching him win two of the past three editions of the Vuelta a España after racing the Tour de France, the team figures three hard weeks of racing is just what Menchov needs ahead of July’s Tour.
“We’ve seen him do well in the Vuelta after coming out of the Tour in good shape, so we’ve decided to see if the same thing will happen if he races the Giro before the Tour,” Rabobank sport director Erik Breukink told VeloNews. “He’s won two times the Vuelta, so maybe the Giro will give him what he needs to ride with the best in the Tour.”
The 30-year-old Menchov will make his Giro d’Italia debut with the idea that it will help him roll into the Tour with all cylinders firing.
Menchov’s record the past three years supports the team’s hypothesis.
In 2005 and 2007, Menchov came out of disappointing Tours to roar through the Vuelta, resulting in two victories in the past three editions. In 2006, Menchov won a stage and finished sixth in the Tour and later abandoned the Vuelta.
The team is hoping that juggling Menchov’s racing schedule will lead to fruitful results in July.
“One of the reasons I am here is to best prepare for the Tour,” Menchov said Friday. “I’ve proven I can ride two grand tours in the same year with success. In the past, I’ve done well in the Vuelta after racing the Tour, so maybe it will work like that this year.”
Menchov will lead Rabobank at the Giro, but doesn’t want to put too much pressure on himself for the GC. Many are calling him an outsider for victory, but he said he’s more worried about July.
“I don’t have any specific goal for a stage or a place in GC. The most important for me is to improve my performance in the course of three weeks and to come out of the Giro as strong as possible,” Menchov said. “I’m not at 100 percent right now, but I hope to do as well as I can. We have to see how the race unfolds.”
Breukink said the team would be working to protect Menchov in the opening half of the race to keep him in position for the decisive second half of the Giro.
“We have some other riders who can try to win stages, with Graeme (Brown) for sprints and (Mauricio) Ardila for a stage,” Breukink said. “Denis will have no pressure, but of course we hope he can do well.”
Rabobank for Giro d’Italia
Denis Menchov (Rus)
Graeme Brown (Aus)
Bram de Groot (Ned)
Theo Eltink (Ned)
Matthew Hayman (Aus)
Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus)
Gerbin Lowik (Ned)
Paul Martens (Ger)
Mauricio Ardila (Col)