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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

An interview with Theo de Rooij, April 23, 2004

An Honest Race

Rabobank director Theo De Rooij discusses Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Theo de Rooij
Photo ©: Rabobank

The day after La Flèche Wallonne, Cyclingnews' Gabriella Ekström spoke to Rabobank manager Theo de Rooij about the performance of his team in the last week, and about his expectations for the last spring classic, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"As far as the team is concerned, we did a good race at Amstel," De Rooij explains. "Everyone was focused on us, and we carried the weight of the race from the start to the finish."

Despite having controlled most of the race, Boogerd had to see himself passed by Rebellin in the last metres when it all came down to a two man sprint. "Of course, there are always speculations," De Rooij adds without regret in his voice. "It has been said that Boogerd started the sprint too early, but in his defence I have to say that Rebellin was very good, and we saw another confirmation of that during Flèche Wallonne. I don't think there's anything that can be said about Boogerd's sprint, neither could he have done things differently. If he had started out the sprint too late, someone would have an opinion on that as well. What I can say is that he has all the local knowledge to take the best decision possible at all times in a race like that. He did what he considered best."

At Flèche Wallonne, won by high flying Rebellin, Boogerd was a non participant. "Boogerd went very deep in Amstel, as he always does, and after Amstel time just flies. You only have Monday for recovery, and then you have to be back in the hotel for Flèche. We took the decision that he wasn't fully recovered. Instead, he'll be all set for Liège."

Rabobank in Amstel
Photo ©: AFP

No longer on home ground, Rabobank is still hold some of the biggest favourites for La Doyenne on Sunday. However, De Rooij considers Liège to be a whole different story than Amstel. "At Liège, we will not have to take on the large task of controlling the whole race. There are more teams who can share that task. In Amstel, we did have the advantage of local knowledge, something that we might lack in Liège, but in my opinion, Liège is the most honest race of the classics. It has the most honest selection, and you know that it is the best riders who will be found at the front in the end."

With Dekker, Boogerd, Freire and Leipheimer among the starters, the Dutch team has plenty of cards to play against riders like Vinokourov, Di Luca and Rebellin. "On the paper, Liège is a better race for Oscar Freire than Amstel. He's not one of the biggest favourites, but I feel he could be up there at the end, the very least to grab some points. But in the end, we will ride for Dekker and Boogerd on Sunday. Erik made a good impression on me during Flèche Wallonne. After his solo attack, he still managed to follow the group, and lost just forty and some seconds over the final climb. If you do that, you have got to be in great shape."

Except for a seemingly strong team, De Rooij says that Rabobank has another ace up its sleeve, that of mental strength. "Unlike some other teams, we have already won one World Cup race this season, and that gives us confidence. A lot of other teams will find themselves at the start of the last spring classic, and they have yet to do what we have already achieved."

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