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Three stage wins for Robbie McEwen and 11th place overall in his first major tour for 26-year-old Wim van Huffel ensured that the Belgian Davitamon-Lotto team came out of the Giro with a very positive balance. The team's success in Italy also lifted them to the top of the ProTour's team standings, which is guaranteed to give them a boost going into the Tour de France in five weeks' time.
Davitamon's nine-man team for the Tour is shaping up, with McEwen, Fred Rodriguez, Leon van Bon, Cadel Evans, Axel Merckx and Christophe Brandt all guaranteed to start, fitness permitting. Seven riders are in competition for the final three places: Wim Vansevenant, Johan Vansummeren, Bert Roesems, Henk Vogels, Mario Aerts, Nico Mattan and Serge Baguet.
Although there is no immediate rest for Van Huffel, who is scheduled to ride the Dauphin next week, the former Vlaanderen rider is not expected to appear at the Tour. His next major tour assignment is the Vuelta in late August, where he could well start among the outsiders for a podium finish.
Van Huffel has said in the Belgian press that he is looking forward to riding up Mont Ventoux during the Dauphin, but admitted that the only time he had ever seen the mountain was passing by on the nearby autoroute. Of his Giro performance, he commented that "it was great to be able to stay with Savoldelli, Di Luca and Cunego. They spoke about me a lot. I knew they were talking about me, although I don't speak Italian and didn't know what they were saying."
Van Huffel said that he hopes to improve in time trials in order to be more competitive in major tours having established he's got the stamina to stay with the best in the major tours. "I was sure that one day I would end up in the gruppetto and finish half an hour down on the best, but that day never arrived," he told La Dernire Heure.
Davitamon DS Herman Frison admitted the team were as surprised as the rider at how well Van Huffel rode. "When Davitamon boss Marc Coucke asked me at the start of the season to pick out one rider who would surprise him, I told him it would be Van Huffel," said Frison. "But at the start of the Giro he was working for McEwen and on chasing back breaks. It was only as the race went on that we realised he could achieve a high overall finish."
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