Garzelli tips Leipheimer for Giro

Stefano Garzelli warns that USA's Levi Leipheimer will be the favourite for the Giro d'Italia win this month based on recent wins in the Tour of California and Castilla y León and a strong team support that includes Lance Armstrong.

Stefano Garzelli warns that USA's Levi Leipheimer will be the favourite for the Giro d'Italia win this month based on recent wins in the Tour of California and Castilla y León and a strong team support that includes Lance Armstrong.

"A lot of people are not talking about the Astana front with Leipheimer. I think Leipheimer is maybe more of a favourite than Ivan Basso," Acqua & Sapone's Garzelli told Cyclingnews. "You see how he is going lately: on the climbs he is strong, in the time trial he is strong and he has a strong team. But I think it is going a great Giro with Basso, Danilo Di Luca, Damiano Cunego, Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov... with everyone else."

Garzelli got a first hand look at the Astana team at the Tirreno-Adriatico and more recently in the Giro del Trentino. Riding in support of Klöden, the team showed the strength it has to help Leipheimer win the Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31. Leipheimer finished 18th in the 2008 Giro d'Italia while helping teammate Alberto Contador win the overall.

Garzelli returns to the Giro d'Italia after missing last year's due to his team's non-invite by the race organisers. He won two stages in the 2007 Giro d'Italia – in Bergamo and Lienz – and finished 16th overall.

"A stage win would be a positive result, but I won't exclude anything. I will start to have a good Giro, no one expected I would arrive second in Tirreno, but I did and I nearly won.

"Considering my age [35], I am still competitive and with the strongest. With respect to 2007, I am a little bit more tranquillo knowing that I am on good condition."

Garzelli's first Giro d'Italia was in 1997. He helped teammate Marco Pantani win the 1998 Giro d'Italia before taking his own two years later.

"This will be my 11th Giro d'Italia. I feel good heading into this one, but certainly I am not a going into the Giro to win and obsess over the general classification."

The centenary Giro d'Italia starts next Saturday in Venice. Over three weeks, it takes in Italy's most famous cities, including a time trial on the final day Rome.

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