Lithuanian Ignatas Konovalovas took a surprise victory on the Giro d’Italia’s final stage last year, but hopes of picking up where he left off when this year’s race commences in Amsterdam might be asking too much of the 24-year-old.
“It’s going to be difficult for me because I have been sick for most of the first part of the season,” Konovalovas told Cyclingnews in the Netherlands. “I got the flu at the Volta ao Algarve and I was out for 10 days after that. I got sick again and off the bike for another seven days after Tirreno-Adriatico. My blood results have gone down, so it’s hard to say how my shape is before this time trial. Last year my win was a big surprise for everyone.”
Last year’s Giro d’Italia was Konovalovas’ first Grand Tour. He credits former Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre for acknowledging his strength an encouraging him during his first Giro.
“The hardest part of it was at the end of the first week when we had a couple of stages longer than 200 kilometres,” he recalled. “After 10 days, I was like a zombie but most of the other riders were too, so you don’t care about anything. Carlos Sastre gave me a lot of motivation during the third week. He said ‘I see you’re strong, you can make it in the final time trial’. He was obviously right.”
Konovalovas also finished inside the top 10 at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Road Championship in the time trial, showing he’s one of the world’s most interesting prospects for the race against the clock. He might be unsure of his current condition but Konovalovas prepared specifically for the 8.4km flat opening stage.
“My last seven days of training have been on my time trial bike exclusively,” he said. “My favourite distances are no less than 15 or 20km. Normally the longer the better. I came here in Holland last year for the Vuelta and I was 18th at the 4.8km prologue. If I do anything better than that on Saturday, I’ll be happy.”
Known as a good climber too, the tall, skinny Cervélo TestTeam rider is also at the Giro to help team captain Sastre to win the overall classification.