Welcome to a new feature here at Pavé, wherein we look back on the month of racing and award the increasingly prestigious Pavé Team of the Month on the most deserving squad. If the director sportif from the winning squad contacts us after winning the Team of the Month, we here at Pavé will send them a gift basket.
February’s Team of the Month is Rabobank. There have been years when Rabobank has only scraped together a few early season victories despite coming out swinging, but it seems that they’ve put the pieces together in 2011 with big early-season wins coming from a myriad sources. After starting the season out in January with youngster Michael Matthews taking stage 3 of the Tour Down Under, Rabobank has found success everywhere it turned. Lars Boom took the prologue of the Tour of Qatar early in the month. Then, at the Tour of Oman, Theo Bos took two sprint stages after being led to the 200 meter mark by Graeme Brown. It’s often said that track endurance riders make good road sprinters, and with Brown and a few others in the pro peloton, we’re seeing track pursuiters make fearsome leadout men. Bos, a world champion in the sprint, kilo, and keirin, has taken a few years to prove his mettle on the road, but two wins in Oman are a nice addition to his palmares and a sign that his development as a road sprinter isn’t stagnant.
After Bos’s victories in Oman, he handed over the reigns to his teammate Robert Gesink. Gesink won a mountaintop finish on Stage 4 and an individual time trial the following day to wrap up his overall victory in the general classification. A youngster who can climb and time trial well – does this sound like a promising threat? I’m told that there are some long races in the summer in which climbers who can time trial can excel.
After Gesink’s victory in Oman, Oscar Freire took two stages at the Ruta del Sol (also called the Vuelta a Andalucia) before the team turned its sights on the Belgian Opening Weekend, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. There, Sebastian Langeveld won Omloop with an impressive move from 53k out while his teammate Lars Boom got a free ride on a chase group. The chase never came close, so Juan Antonio Flecha lit the afterburners and took off after Langeveld. Somehow, after being caught, Langeveld kept the upper hand by neutralizing Flecha’s lone attack with 5k to go, and then dispatched him by a tire’s width in the sprint.
Many have discussed Boom’s classics potential ever since he made a thorough transition to road racing, but with their success at Omloop and their star Classics man Mattie Breschel looking as though he’ll miss most of the spring, Rabobank could certainly do worse than to look to Langeld for leadership. With Boom a potential Ace in the Hole, it makes for a strong one-two punch in Rabobank’s arsenal. If you’re surprised, you haven’t been paying attention – last week, Whit wrote that Rabobank’s replacements for Breschel don’t seem capable of “dominating a race in the way that Breschel could have,” but that “his absence just might give someone a chance to prove us wrong,” before putting his money on Langeveld.
At the end of February, Rabobank leads the peloton in wins, but most impressive is they’ve come from five riders in time trials, mountain top finishes, small stage races, sprints, semi-classics – victories all over the board and all over the world.
Thanks for tuning in, and keep your eyes open later this week for our pick for Rider of the Month.