Tour de France veteran and Rabobank team director Erik Breukink was disappointed with his team’s efforts Monday, as Russian captain Denis Menchov missed a decisive split in Stage 3 into Nantes.
Menchov, a two-time Tour of Spain winner and Rabobank’s general classification favourite, found himself in a group that had been left trailing by some furious accelerations at the front of the peloton as they continued their futile pursuit of a four-man break.
In the end, Cofidis sprinter Samuel Dumoulin went on to win his first stage of the race with a superbly-timed drive for the line while compatriot Romain Feillu (Agritubel) made it a French double by pulling on the yellow jersey.
All the big favourites for the final victory in Paris crossed the line just over two minutes behind, Menchov being the only one of the big guns to lose time after he trailed in over 30 seconds later.
It could have been worse; Rabobank worked hard to close the gap to the first chasing bunch in the closing kilometres. But Rabobank were still furious, especially as they had spoken about that particular part of the course which, with detrimental crosswinds, made the chase and the race even tougher.
“I’m obviously not very satisfied with the result of today’s stage,” Breukink said. “This is the Tour de France, so the time we lost today was valuable, especially when it could have been prevented.
“I can’t explain it,” Breukink added, himself a Tour veteran. “We spoke about the dangers on this stage, and that particular point which, with the crosswinds, was susceptible to causing splits in the peloton.”
Menchov has returned to the Tour as Rabobank’s main yellow jersey hope a year after the controversy prompted by Danish climber Michael Rasmussen missing a series of doping tests and then eventually being sacked and thrown off the race for lying over his whereabouts.
Despite being seen by many as a dark horse for the yellow jersey, Menchov’s setback will question whether he can win this year’s race, for which Cadel Evans of Australia and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde are the main favourites.
“I was too far behind when the peloton decided to break away. Losing 38 seconds is not my idea of what I had planned for today,” Menchov said. “But I’m not that far behind in the general classification and I’m not giving up hope just yet.”
The quiet Russian will aim to make up for lost time in Tuesday’s time trial, over 29.5km, and Breukink will now try to forget the team’s setback.
“The team worked really hard at the end of the stage to limit the damage,” Breukink added. “Now we have to get behind Denis to make sure he approaches the time trial in the best possible way.”
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008