Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi), who wrapped up the inaugural ProTour yesterday with his fourth place finish in the Züri-Metzgete, commented that it was one of the hardest races he's ever done. "It was a terrible race, the toughest one of my life. The weather conditions were terrible but it was worth it: at last the Pro Tour is mine!
"The consistency during the season was very important: I won the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the Amstel Gold Race and the Flèche Wallonne; I raced as a protagonist in the Giro d’Italia taking fourth and today, in October, I'm still with the best riders. Behind me in the Pro Tour ranking there are great champions that, on the contrary, preferred to aim at specific goals limited to a particular period. Or athletes, like Boonen, very consistent, but not present in the grand tours' overall rankings."
Di Luca doesn't even have to race Paris-Tours or Giro di Lombardia to win the ProTour, but he says he won't miss either of them. "No, I won't. I can't do without the 'Lombardia': I've already won this charming race in 2001. Moreover the Pro Tour victory is an advantage for me: I can race the "Classic of the falling leaves" concentrating on the win. Of course, Paris-Tours doesn't suit me like Lombardia does, but I believe the ProTour leader can't do without racing such a prestigious race in front of such a passionate public like the French."
Di Luca dedicated the victory to "...the people that stayed at my side last year, in the most difficult period of my life. Above all my wife Valentina."
Asked to comment on the points system, which discriminates against stage winners compared to GC riders, Di Luca said, "The structure is all right. I would only increase points to stage winners: three points for a stage win in a grand tour or only one for the win at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco is really not much."
Next year, Di Luca will shift his goals a little, with the ProTour becoming less of a focus. "I've fought with all my strength to conquer this edition of the ProTour, the first one," he said. "Now I have other goals: however if on the way, I also have the second white jersey at hand, I will try not to let the opportunity slip, of course. But it isn't one of my main goals: in 2006 I will aim at the Giro d'Italia and World Championships."
To achieve these goals, Di Luca said he'll start training at altitude in January, but won't reach his peak in April like he did this year.