Who are the sponsor? Following the withdrawal of Rabobank, there isn’t one – Blanco means, as you might expect, ‘Blank’, as the team uses the money Rabobank was contractually obliged to pay to continue whilst searching for a new sponsor through the Blanco branding.
2012 Ranking: 8th.
Past Stars: Michael Boogerd, Denis Menchov, Michael Rasmussen, Robbie McEwen, Oscar Freire, Nick Nuyens, Juan Antonio Flecha, Matti Breschel
Selected Team Palmares: Stages, Tour de France (Luis Leon Sanchez x 4, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, Juan Manuel Garate 2009) Classica San Sebastian x 2 (Luis Leon Sanchez, 2010, 2012) 1st, Tour of California 2012 (Robert Gesink), Stage, Vuelta a Espana (Lars Boom, 2009), Tour of Britain 2011, Tour of Belgium 2009, Eneco Tour 2012 (all Lars Boom)
Brief Team History: The Rabobank have been around a while, providing a rich and varied diet of talent that has always been bubbling under but never quite managed to get to the top. Their top riders have been Denis Menchov, who got onto the podium of all three Grand Tours wearing the Rabobank colours, winning the Giro in 2009 and the Vuelta in 2007 as he went. Oscar Freire was their other main man, rattling off big wins every so often, such as Milan San Remo, Paris Tours, Ghent Whevelghem and the green jersey to keep everyone happy. However, the fact that a Russian and a Spaniard were the stalwarts of the Dutch team showed that despite the fact they could put eight men on the front at the Amstel Gold Race, the Dutch contingent within the team was slipping. Peter Weening was the last Dutchman to win a Tour stage back in 2005, and despite promise from Gesink, Mollema and co, they haven’t quite stepped up.
Last year: The main news was the loss of the sponsor, which says alot really, as well as the not hugely surprising revelation that the team had tolerated doping in the noughties. Meanwhile, when they actually raced, Rabobank found that they kept missing the podium with their Grand Tour riders, unless it was at the Tour of California, which they won with Gesink. They actually picked up a nice smattering of wins – two stages of the Tour of Romandie, the Classica San Sebastian, the Eneco Tour and a Paris-Nice stage was all good work from Boom and Sanchez, who rescued their Tour de France with his 4th stage win in 5 years, but in the end, their season would be categorized by the sponsors withdrawal and subsequent fall out.
Transfer dealings: Blanco have definitely gained in the transfer market – they were always going to lose Michael Matthews to Orica, Breschel had been injured his whole contract and Barredo was a reminder of bad practise, so to bring in Jack Bobridge, Sep Vanmarcke and Lars Peter Nordhaug is a a real plus, especially given how all three are powerful young riders with big wins already to their credit.
Who are the star riders? The team may be Dutch, but the rider who has most consistently delivered for them is Luis Leon Sanchez, who has won Tour stages and classics for them with metronomic efficiency. Then there’s the Dutch GC contingent who need to step up from ‘promising’ to ‘delivering’, which consists of Robert Gesink, Bauke Mollema, Steven Kruijswijk and Wilco Kelderman. The classics are well catered for with Lars Boom an under-rated star, with support from Martin Tjallingi, Sep Vanmarcke and Lars Peter Nordhaug, who will power his way over hills to wins. They have a sprinting department which isn’t as great as it used to be, but Mark Renshaw and Theo Bos will hope to continue developing towards a Grand Tour stage.
Fashion police: The Blanco rebrand is obviously intended to be attractive, smart, functional but mostly safe, hence the use of the commonest colours in the peloton, blue and black. Whilst there’s some disappointment the kit isn’t as white as the name suggested, or that the Dutch orange was kept in some manner, the kit is trying to break from the past of Rabobank and usher in a new era.
What are their targets? Gesink is one of many aiming for the Giro, whilst Mollema has targeted the Tour de France. Elswhere, they’ll basically just want to win races, as many as possible, as big as possible, to get a sponsor on board, preferably before the Tour de France.
What are they likely to achieve? Gesink wont win the Giro, though if he tries hard, he could get on the podium, but unless he shows drastic improvement, he’s reached his plateau. Similarly, Mollema won’t do anything at the Tour, but Sanchez should pick up his annual stage win as well as some other wins. Nordhaug and Boom will be the teams big winners otherwise, in short stage races and tough classics.
Components: Giant are now provider of bikes and kit to Blanco, who keep the Shimano Pro bars and stems as well as Di2 drivetrain from last year.
The Big Question(s): Will they get a sponsor before the end of the year? Can the Dutch contingent step up and deliver on the hype? Can Renshaw and Bos break through?