Rabobank has put together a strong team this year, but their roster will be spread thin as the team sends some riders to the Giro dâ€™ Italia while others skip racing all together to instead focus on the Tour de France.
Rabobank has not released their official Tour of California roster yet, but we can get a good idea of who will show up based on where to the team is sending its other star riders. Oscar Friere, Rabobankâ€™s renowned sprinter, will headline the team at the Giro dâ€™ Italia, which means no California racing this year for Friere. 2009 Giro dâ€™ Italia winner Dennis Menchov and 2007 and 2008 Tour of California Best Young Rider Robert Gesink will also skip the 2010 Tour of California, instead choosing to focus on Tour de France preparations together.
This leaves Lars Boom, who won the Paris-Nice prologue, as Rabobankâ€™s best shot at a time-trial stage win in Los Angeles. Boom will face some stiff competition from the many time trial specialists at this yearâ€™s tour, but we will leave the door open for a strong TT performance.
Boom has also proved himself as a strong stage racer, winning stage 15 of last yearâ€™s Vuelta in a stunning solo effort, mixing strong climbing with consistency and quickness to get a Grand Tour win. If he is motivated and has a team willing to work for him, Boom could shine on some mountain stages.
We also expect Rabobank to send climber Juan Manuel Garate to California this year, to lend some additional talent in the mountains. Garate was the fastest up the Mont Ventoux during stage 20 of last yearâ€™s Tour de France, proving himself as a powerful climber with plenty of endurance. Watch for him to put up a fight in the mountains, especially on the longer climbs.
Rabobank is also a sponsor of the Tour of California, with several branches along the route, so riders and management will have a little extra incentive in front of the sponsors. Rabobank might have a chance to pick up a decent stage result in Thousand Oaks during the circuit race the final day – GC will be all sorted out and most of the big guns will take it easy, so the orange and blue jerseys might have a chance to spend some time on the front.
Rabobank fans can safely hedge their bets on Boom or Garate for the strongest team performances. Some of the teamâ€™s younger and lesser known riders might use California as an opportunity for a breakout performance, but Boom and Garate are by far the most experienced and accomplished riders expected on Rabobankâ€™s 2010 Tour of California roster.
Related: Tour of California Preview: Team Bissell