The DynastyFor the last 12 seasons, no team on the development level or, arguably, on the continental level, have had as much success as the Rabobank Continental squad. Reading through the names of the team's alumni is a who's who of Dutch cycling and many other important riders in the peloton currently.
Just so we are clear on their dominance, we are going to do a roll call:
Ryder Hesjedal, Laurens Ten Dam, Thomas Dekker, Lars Boom, Robert Gesink, Steven Kruijswijk, Bauke Mollema, Tejay van Garderen, Theo Bos and Wilco Kelderman.
Alright there may be a couple more...
Koen de Kort, Kevin de Weert, Jens Mouris, Rory Sutherland, Kenny van Hummel, Pieter Weening, Stef Clement, Serge Pauwels, Tom Stamsnijder, Tom Leezer, Tom Veelers, Martijn Maaskant, Rob Ruijgh, Jos van Emden, Marc de Maar, Rick Flens, Martijn Keizer, Boy van Poppel, Dennis van Winden, Jetse Bol, Michel Kreder, Michael van Staeyen, Ramon Sinkeldam, Brian Bulgac, Moreno Hofland, Wesley Kreder, Barry Markus, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Rohan Dennis, Tom Dumoulin, Marc Goos and Danny van Poppel.
I lied, there are just a few more...
- Joost Posthuma (retired)
- Roy Setjens (doping suspension-back racing)
- Will Walker (heart condition-back racing)
- Kai Reus (traumatic injury-retired after comeback)
- Coen Vermeltfoort (bad transition to World Tour; riding on continental team)
- Sergej Fuchs (never given shot in pros; riding with NSP-Ghost)
- Bernhard Kohl (no explanation needed)
- Jukka Vastranata (sciatic nerve problems-now MTBer)
*in bold = Current Blanco Pro Cycling member italics=former Rabobank member
**Before anyone thinks it, I am quite aware that many of the names on that list have been connected to doping. Dekker and Kohl are the two names that jump out but any evidence of organized doping on Rabobank Continental has never been found. Moving on...
That is 50 riders and I could have listed even more. They are apart of the machine that won nearly 300 races in the last 12 seasons. Rabobank CT has been a production machine in terms of both getting results on the continental lever and being able to transition riders into the World Tour. The team produced the best Dutch talent and yet the great success they experienced brought along a downside. The team invested in heavily in these riders but in more recent years, the majority were signing with other Pro Tour/World Tour teams and jumping outside of the Rabobank system. So what do you do to mitigate the investment lose? Do you take less riders on or perhaps take only a few future stars and more workhorses? It is a complicated question. Yet with Rabobank dropping sponsorship, new opportunities are on the horizon...
(Ster van Zwolle 2013)
Alright class, here is a team roster so you can follow along at home.
This year's team is anchored by holdovers from last year squad.
- The two heavy hitters on the GC front are Daan Olivier and Dylan van Baarle. Olivier had a consistent season last year and at only 20, he turned heads at the Tour de l'Ain where he went 4th overall. That was only one of eight top ten GC rides he had last season. Van Baarle (pictured) is a strong rider with some of the best TT skills on the squad, i.e. his Olympia's Tour overall win. He was on track to a big late season but broke his hip last August, taking him out of action for the rest of the season. He silenced any doubts about his hip by out sprinting his breakaway companions and the charging peloton at Ster van Zwolle last weekend.
- Nick van der Lijke already scored big this year with his win at the Beverbeek Classic and with a whole host of top ten results last year, he will be looking to improve on that with his rouleur skills.
- Jasper Bovenhuis is the most experienced sprinter on the squad and in his last U23 season, will be looking to impress to garner a pro contract.
- Ivar Slik will be looking to improve on his solid 2012 with high results in flatter stage races. Slik was one of the biggest juniors of the 2011 class and had big results in his first U23 year last year at Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux (2nd) and Tour of China I (5th).
- While this team is run under the Dutch Federation, two Germans are apart of the roster in Rick Zabel and Ruben Zepuntke. Zabel is the most talked about of the two as he is the son of retired superstar Erik Zabel. While he had decent results last season, Zepuntke was definitely the more impressive of the two. Zepuntke rode to a stage win at the Thüringen Rundfahrt along with 7th place at the U23 Paris-Roubaix.
- Marco Minnaard and Martijn Tusveld were apart of the successful Tour of China I team last year that saw the whole team finish in the top eleven of the GC thanks to a impressive team time trial. Minnaard is an ex-MTB rider and has an all-around package while Tusveld seems to do well in flatter-to-rolling affairs.
- Looking at the roster, you will notice all of the cyclo-cross racers on the team. Since the Off-Road team and the Continental team merged, we have all of the dirt lovers on the squad. It is doubtful that they will run a big road schedule but they might pop up here and there. U23 Cyclocross World Champion Mike Teunissen is the best one out of the group to watch on the road. He was 8th at U23 Paris-Roubaix last year. Other crossers include: Lars van der Haar, Stan Godrie, Emiel Dolfsma, Gert-Jan Bosman and Neils Wubben.
- Ricardo van Dongen (pictured) is coming into his 1st espoir season with expectations. Last year, he won the junior Ronde van Vlaanderen and was 9th at the Junior Paris-Roubaix.
- Lennard Hofstede (relation?) is another 1st year rider who tasted some success in the junior ranks. He was a stage winner at the Driedaagse van Axel last year along with 3rd at the GP General Patton
- Etienne van Empel has been described by team manager Arthur van Dongen as a potential climber while Merijn Korevaar churned out a slew of high placings as a junior last year and the limit to his potential has remained to be seen.
- Maarten van Trijp transfered over from the Lotto-Belisol U23 team. He was a talented junior that included a podium finish in the 2011 junior Paris-Roubaix. He already sprinted to 6th at Ster van Zwolle this year.
2013 will be no different for the team in terms of result. With two wins already, the team should keep their dynasty intact. Team Manager Arthur van Dongen is endowed with a plethora of talent and will be grateful to have Grischa Niermann, who has transitioned to a director role on the squad after retiring from the peloton in 2012. Niermann won't be seeing the team car until August because of his confession about his doping practices during his career. National talent manager Piet Kuijs will be taking his spot until that time.
Where can I see them next?
Pretty much everywhere! Okay I lied...but still, they ride a rather big schedule and will be at nearly every big espoir and .2 race in Europe. They have a roster that is able to attack nearly every race they enter. This weekend, they will be running two races with the Rabobank Dorpenomloop Rucphen and the Kattekoers.