Di Luca slowly rising

Danilo Di Luca was the king of 2005, with wins in the Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne, Pais Vasco, two...

Danilo Di Luca was the king of 2005, with wins in the Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne, Pais Vasco, two stages of the Giro d'Italia and the overall ProTour classification. 2006 saw the Liquigas rider struggle with form in his home tour but he ended the season with a stage win in the Vuelta a España and a supporting role in Italy's World Championship win.

He has been training and watching the results from his home in Abruzzo, notably his new teammate's wins. Filippo Pozzato, signed over the winter, has taken wins in Haut Var and the Semi-Classic Omloop Het Volk. "It is still not yet the moment for me, but I want to start to make myself seen at the front," commented the 31 year-old to Luigi Perna of La Gazzetta dello Sport. "In the first five races I started out well, I was was with the favourites.

"Pozzato's objectives are at the first part of the season, with Sanremo and, above all, Flanders. It is normal that all the attention is now on him, given the results. But soon there will also be me; starting with Pais Vasco or maybe at Tirreno-Adriatico, where I would like to win the stage to San Giacomo."

Di Luca will take a double pronged approach to 2007, focusing on the Ardennes Classics and then the Giro. One of his main rivals for Amstel, Flèche and Liège, Paolo Bettini of Quick-Step, has already put a win on the board. "I do not watch all the victories of the others. I did this when I was young, not at 31 years. It is a situation that does not bother me. Bettini will be a rival for Liège-Bastogne-Liège with [Alejandro] Valverde, but not only them.

"For me it is normal, it is a question of maturity," said Di Luca regarding his training without being in the winning spotlight. "If you are pointing towards a grand objective then it is like that. And for me there is also the Giro d'Italia. But with respect to Ivan Basso I am a little more present in the spring and at the end of the season."

He will make his way back into racing with the Milano-Torino, followed by the Tirreno-Adriatico and the Milano-Sanremo. Any hopes for a win on the Via Roma are quickly quashed. "I will be there to the end, but I will not have the legs to attack on the Poggio and win. If I am able to I will help Pozzato."

The contract between The Killer and Liquigas ends with 2007 but he does not wish to change teams. "In this team I am good and I am not searching for an alternative." For the future he added, "I am relaxed ... In the next years I will continue to grow. ... Expecting more from myself."

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