Richie Porte isn’t the only rookie occupying the top 10 of the Giro d’Italia in his first attempt at a Grand Tour. Croatian Robert Kiserlovski hasn’t been able to challenge the Australian for the white jersey of best young rider because he got sick before the final week, and he has had to put himself at the service of maglia rosa Ivan Basso. However, Kiserlovski still sits ninth overall heading into the final stage.
“For four days I’ve had an upset stomach because of a virus," Kiserlovski told Cyclingnews prior to the start of stage 20 in Bormio.
“Unfortunately, during these four days, we had to climb the Monte Grappa, the Zoncolan and Plan de Corones. I felt a bit better during the uphill time trial. But I have to work on my time trialing. That’s something I’ll focus on soon.”
Nevertheless, the 23-year-old from Rijeka, who still lives in his country, remains one of the revelations of the Giro d’Italia after winning the Giro dell’Appennino in late April.
“I’m very happy," he said. “This is my first Grand Tour. I didn’t have a lot of experience. For the future, it’s cool.”
Kiserlovski is one of the most impressive riders of his generation. The Liquigas-Doimo team has brought along plenty of young stars with Peter Sagan, Elia Viviani, Daniel Oss and Davide Cimolai. The Croatian transferred from Fuji-Servetto, a team he joined after the fall of Amica Chips one year ago.
“This young guy is a Croatian miracle," said his good friend Matija Kvasina, who has been Croatia’s best cyclist in recent years.
“Cycling is getting very popular in Croatia during this Giro," Kiserlovski said. “I got a lot of press. I’m like a hero. I’m introduced as the first Croatian in the top 10 of a Grand Tour. But I want more. I want to finish in the top three of one of the three Grand Tours. I’m more of a climber but I can do everything if I’m strong.”
On the finish line of Passo del Tonale, Kiserlovski was delighted. Not only had he worked like a mad dog in defence of Basso’s pink jersey, but he also kept his position in the top 10, probably for good.
“If Marco Pinotti does a great time trial, he might pass me and take the ninth place overall, but I don’t think that Damiano Cunego will beat me by 2:39, so I should be 10th at the worst," the Croatian said to Cyclingnews. “This is unbelievable: to help a champion like Basso win and to finish in the top 10 of my first Grand Tour, I couldn’t have asked for more.”