Antonio Cruz was a regular member of the US Postal squad, and continues to be so as part of the Discovery Channel outfit. The popular rider went four years in Europe without a win, until August last year when he won stage two of the Tour de l'Ain. Thing are looking good, and Shane Stokes discussed what could be a stellar 2005.
A big turning point in the career of US rider Antonio Cruz came on August 11th last year when the then US Postal Service rider sprinted to his first European career victory on the second stage of the Tour de l'Ain. José Azevedo, Benjamin Noval and Daniel Rincon were all clear with their teammate in a break towards the end of the 142 kilometre stage to Oyonnax and helped set him up for what was a very important win.
Four years in Europe without a victory had been a big mental block, but smashing through that barrier helped change his mentality. "It was a big moment for me all right," he agrees. "It was good to show the team that if I had guys to set up something like that for me, that I can win. Taking that first European victory did a lot...it gave me confidence and really motivated me."
Cruz went on to ride the Vuelta a España, taking fourth place on stage 16. He had been gunning for a win but says that while the legs were strong, things didn't work out tactically. "I got on the right breakaway, but played the cards sort of wrong. Di Luca and I put ourselves out of the victory trying to watch each other. But those two rides gave me a lot of confidence so I will try to do something special this year."
The 33-year-old is a former criterium specialist who took the US title in the discipline in 1999. One year later he won the U.S. Olympic Trials road race, earning a spot on the team for the Sydney games, a victory he considers as perhaps his most important of his career. He landed a trial with US Postal Service team and fitted in well, earning a contract for 2001. Since then he's been part of Lance's squad, migrating with most of the other riders across to Discovery once sponsorship changed. But with new colours comes new ambitions and, confidence buoyed by that win last season, he's setting his sights higher this spring.