Rabobank continues its Spanish tradition
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Rabobank continues its Spanish tradition

by Samuel Morrison at 3:37 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Freire, Gárate, Sánchez & Barredo form Rabobank's biggest Spanish group

Dutch Rabobank team will start next season with a definite Spanish feel, having in its ranks the greatest percentage of Spaniards in its history.

General Manager Harold Knebel told El País that head sports director, Erik "Breukink is very familiar with Spanish cycling and relies heavily on them."

Knebel and Breukink agreed to hire two new Spaniards this year: Luis León Sánchez from team Caisse d'Epargne and Carlos Barredo from team Quick Step. They join long-time team member and three-time World Champion, Oscar Freire and Juan Manuel Gárate.

Rabobank only had four Spaniards one other time, in 2009. Then, however, 30 cyclists formed the team versus the 26 hired for next year.

"Freire opened the eyes of the foreign teams and forced them to see that we are good people," said Gárate. "Before, Spanish cyclists were ill-considered foreigners."

Freire joined the team in 2003 and for two years was the only Spaniard, having to make small talk with the Spanish masseur, Joseba Núñez.

He won the Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Tours one-day races for the team this year. After joining last year, Gárate won the Tour de France's stage to Mont Ventoux.

With the addition of Sánchez and Barredo, Rabobank will be firing Spanish bullets throughout the year. Sánchez is one of biggest Spanish talents behind Alberto Contador. Feeling at home will allow him to have greater confidence leading the team.

"I arrived a little scared because it is the first time that I have left home," said Sánchez. "I have always been Spanish teams, with Manolo [Saiz], with Eusebio [Unzué]... I was apprehensive thinking I would find another culture, another language, but, with three Spanish colleagues, I feel as if I am at home."

The Spanish flavour is growing on Knebel and Breukink. Besides, as Freire explained, they give the team a large number of its victories.

"I'm learning to understand León and I trust him, also because we have had experience [Pedro] Horrillo and [Juan Antonio] Flecha. They mixed very well with our environment," said Knebel.

"We weren't after Italians, just Spaniards. León was our number one goal since March, when we started courting him."

Rabobank starts it season in January at the Tour Down Under. The Spaniards will start slightly later, Freire will make his debut at the Mallorca Challenge in February.


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