Czech still focussed on Grand Tours after Classic success
Roman Kreuziger's victory in Amstel Gold Race on Sunday was one that proved a point. The Saxo-Tinkoff recruit best-known for his performances in stage races and Grand Tours, wondered aloud why anyone had questioned his abilities in the first place.
"Well I think the only people with doubts about me were the journalists, but not me," he said.
The 26-year-old Czech made his key move with nine kilometres remaining, joining Lars Petter Nordhaug (Blanco), Pieter Weening (Orica GreenEdge) and Katusha's Giampaolo Caruso but two kilometres further up the road, he dropped his pursuants and went for broke in a strong solo attack. Head down, Kreuzinger went into time trial mode.
"In a race like this one, in the first 150km, you're never sure what can happen, even if you feel very good," he explained.
"Today I really believed it was possible for me to win only in the last 500 metres."
Already with overall wins at the Tour of Romandie and Suisse on his palmares, expectations surrounding Kreuziger have been understandably high, particularly when it comes to his performances at the Giro d'Italia where in 2011 he finished fifth overall and took out the young rider's classification, and in 2012 won a mountain stage. When it was announced he had signed for the Danish Saxo-Tinkoff team from Astana, where he'd been for two years after bursting onto the scene with Liquigas, confidence in the team was mentioned as a key factor, so it was no surprise that it was again mentioned following his victory on Sunday.
"I think that now I feel very good with my team Saxo-Tinkoff, and we've got riders who can do very great things," Kreuziger explained. "But I've found in this team the confidence that I needed, and this week was very important for me. They trusted me. Today proves they were right to trust me."
Asked if the win signalled that he could have a future as a Classics specialist, Kreuziger brushed away the suggestion.
"No, I'm still a rider for stage races and to be good in the Grand Tours," he said. "This week is important for the riders also who are aiming for the Grand Tours because they are difficult Classics; they are more than six hours on the bike so they are also important for riders like me, just as they are for one-day specialists."
If there had been doubts over Kreuziger's move to Saxo Bank away from Astana, where he had been a dedicated leader for Grand Tours, the first question would be why he would work under Bjarne Riis knowing that first preference lay with Alberto Contador. It's a question he may be forced to answer again, as Contador has confirmed he will be racing Flèche Wallonne and also Liège - Bastogne - Liège, where he's been a top-10 performer in the past.
"There are three Grand Tours in the year so I think there is an opportunity for everybody," said Kreuziger. "We have a different program [he and Contador]. It's a good team for me also because I'm still a very young rider."
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