de Knegt finished second to his Rabobank teammate Aernouts.  ? Bart Hazen

De Knegt will have some solid reinforcements for the 2010/2011 season © Bart Hazen

by Josh Liberles

Rabobank, the perennial powerhouse road and cyclocross team based in the Netherlands, restructured their off-road program at the beginning of 2010. Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer Giant came on board as co-title sponsor, and Rabo-Giant was born. The two prime goals of the team will be to offer opportunities to homegrown Dutch riders and to focus on young riders, with most of the riders in the U23 ranks. Former world champion and Rabobank cyclocross star Richard Groenendaal will direct the ‘cross team for 2010/11.

More recently, Rabo-Giant has bolstered its ranks by signing an additional five ‘cross riders to round out the 14-man squad. Lars van der Haar, Michiel van der Heijden, Mike Teunissen, Gert-Jan Bosman and Emiel Dolfsma will all be flying the team colors.

2010 Junior world champ Teunissen and Bosman (fourth place at Junior Worlds), both 17, share a desire to also pursue road racing, and will likely vie for spots on the Continental Rabobank road team. Van der Haar had consistently good U23 results last year, including a sixth place in Tabor. Van der Heijden, 18, took the silver medal in last year’s European MTB Championships, is a multiple-time Dutch national champion and will race both cross country and cyclocross next season. They will join ‘cross stalwarts Bart Aernouts and Gerben de Knegt, who was second in the 2010 Dutch National Championships behind, ironically enough, former ‘cross world champion turned Rabobank ProTour roadie Lars Boom. Let’s hope that Boom tries his hand at a few more ‘cross races again this coming season. It’ll be interesting to see the dynamics between him, presumably adorned in the Rabobank road team kit, racing with (against?) the Rabo-Giant team.

Rabo-Giant’s sponsorship umbrella will also extend over the cross-country riders, led by US Olympian Adam Craig. In addition to the World Cup MTB schedule that Craig will race, once he recovers from his ACL surgery, he will also toe the line for another domestic ‘cross calendar, likely culminating with Nationals in his hometown of Bend, Oregon.

“From an athlete’s standpoint, it’s the ideal setup,” Craig said. “There are certain similarities between cross-country mountain biking and cyclocross, and there’s always some athlete cross-over between the two disciplines. So structuring it under one team makes sense.”

For more on Adam Craig and his assessment of his injury, check out the video below, courtesy of Broadbandsports.