By Peter Cossins, Procycling Editor
After two very up-and-down seasons at Astana where the highlight was a stage win in 2007 Dauphiné and the lowest point was that season's premature departure from the Tour de France, Majorca-born Toni Colom is hoping that a move to the new Katusha team will finally give him the chance to compete for major titles in his own right.
The 30-year-old Spaniard, who is entering his 11th pro season, was pretty frustrated by his lack of opportunities at Astana last year, saying, "When Alberto [Contador] wasn't riding Leipheimer would be, and if he wasn't there, Klöden would be. There were moments when my level of from was exceptional – equal, if not superior to theirs – but I had to hold myself back. The offer from Katusha gives me the chance to battle for my own objectives."
The Spanish climber admits this could be his last chance of showing whether he's got the ability to compete with the very best in some of the season's biggest events. At Katusha he is set to share leadership duties with Vladimir Karpets and Evgeni Petrov, with all three set to ride at the Tour. Colom hopes to reach another peak of form at the Vuelta, where his target is to finish in the top 10 on GC.
Prior to that, his early goals will be Paris-Nice and the Tour of the Basque Country. "Katusha have offered me the chance to focus totally on the Tour and Vuelta, but judging my whole season on just those races is a risk I'm not prepared to take," he told Spanish magazine Ciclismo a Fondo. "So my first objective will be to win the Tour of the Basque Country, a race that I've always loved because of the special atmosphere created by the fans there. After that my goal will be to win a stage at the Tour and finish in the top 10 at the Vuelta. If I achieve those three things I would consider my career as going from being good, as I see it now, to being very good."
Although now approaching veteran status, Colom believes that the fact that he's raced a short program each season compared to other riders could help him extend his career for several more seasons. "Although this is my 11th season I've not raced that much because of allergy problems I'm affected by in May that force me to stop racing. I've only done four major tours and the average number of days I've raced each season is only 52, well below what other riders do. Many riders have reached their best level when they've passed 30 – [Tony] Rominger, [Ezequiel] Mosquera – and I want to do the same."
Looking back over the years since he turned pro with the small Amica Chips team at the age of just 20 in 1999, Colom says he's got lots of good memories, "but the worst moment was undoubtedly the way we were treated like terrorists and criminals at the Tour in 2007". By winning a stage at the Tour he hopes he can erase much of that memory and show his previous teams what they have missed out on.