By Shane Stokes and Hedwig Kröner
Giovanni Visconti, the new leader of General Classification in the Giro d'Italia, has hopes to keep his jersey until the time trial from Pesaro to Urbino next Tuesday, and even beyond. The Quickstep rider, who shares his overall time with Gerolsteiner's Matthias Russ, has over nine minutes advantage to the race favourites.
"I want to keep this jersey as long as possible, for me and for my girlfriend and for my parents," said the man from Sicily at the finish of stage six, prepared to fight off the German's probable attacks. "And also for all the sacrifices I have made in my career. I want to keep the jersey until the time trial. But I know I can also do well in the time trial because last year in the final time trial of the Giro I was 12th or 13th. I am good at that."
Visconti, 25 years of age, currently enjoys the most successful time of his career so far, and naturally wants to make the most of it. "I would like to win a stage with the pink jersey, but also holding onto it as long as possible is important for me," he continued. "It gives you visibility and also helps for the morale."
After virtually collapsing behind the finish line on Thursday, having conquered the race lead, the Italian had to thank a special person on his team for supporting him all the years. "It was very important to embrace Bettini after the finish, because he helped me to believe in myself," Visconti admitted. "To succeed in cycling you have to make a lot of sacrifices, but that is okay because I love my sport. So I am happy to do that. It is important to fight and to improve every time."
The new maglia rosa also expected his rivals to improve throughout the race, and pointed at American Levi Leipheimer as his favourite for the final victory in Milan. Asked which of the three Astana leaders (Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden or Alberto Contador) would turn out strongest in his opinion, he said, "I think Astana will ride for Leipheimer. I think he will do a big time trial and then we will see him winning."
But the race finish is still far away, and Visconti only wanted to think of his new-found fame amongst the Italian public. Although he is a Sicily native, the 25 year-old recently moved to Tuscany, taking with him his parents and sister as family ties are still very much valued in Italy. "For a Sicilian rider, it is not easy [to get into cycling] because I used to travel 500 kilometres to go to races each Sunday with my little fiat Uno," he added. "I had to sleep in my car and it was difficult. It was also difficult to leave my mother and father at home because I like them. My sister is a lawyer, and my parents are proud of her and also proud of myself. We are doing very different things but we are doing it well."