Roman Kreuziger (Astana) took to the Alps on Monday to reconnoitre the finale of stage 14 to Cervinia, as he completes his fine-tuning for the Giro d’Italia. He rode the final 70 kilometres of the stage, including the climbs of the Col de Joux and the haul to the finish at Cervinia.
While much of the pre-race focus is on the troika of stages in the Dolomites in the final week, culminating in the summit finish atop the mighty Stelvio on the penultimate day, Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli warned that the stage to Cervinia could provide the first major shake-up of the general classification.
“The elevation profile does not do justice to the difficulties of the final kilometres, particularly the incredibly tough climb to the finish in Cervinia,” Martinelli said. “This stage could have a major impact on the general classification, since if a rider is not quite at 100% he could fall significantly behind.”
Cervinia last featured in the Giro in 1997, as eventual overall winner Ivan Gotti soloed to victory to divest Pavel Tonkov of the pink jersey with one week still to race. On that occasion, the final climb was preceded by the Col Saint Pantaleon, the site of Gotti’s initial acceleration.
The Astana squad has enjoyed a strong run of results in recent weeks, including surprise victories at Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, while Kreuziger himself has been hugely consistent in his approach to the Giro, with top 6 finishes in Tirreno-Adriatico, the Giro del Trentino and the Tour de Romandie.
“We have a very strong and confident team for the Giro d’Italia,” Martinelli said. “Roman showed some good signs [in Romandie], with his sixth place in the general classification and especially by coming fifth in the final time trial, where he was only beaten by specialists.”
Like so many of the strongest performers thus far this season, a reduced racing weight has been a notable feature of Kreuziger’s approach to the Giro. “You can see the veins on my stomach,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “We’re there, at 67.5kg.”
Kreuziger, who will turn 26 on Sunday, lines up at the Giro among the favourites for overall victory, although he insists that he is looking only to build upon his 5th place finish of twelve months ago. “I’m aiming for the podium,” he said.
The Czech looked comfortable at the Tour de Romandie, where he was aggressive on the final road stage and then limited his losses to 40 seconds to Bradley Wiggins in the final time trial. “I paid a little bit for the fact that I had a sinus infection at Trentino and I had to take care of it with antibiotics, but it was a pity that there wasn’t a real summit finish in the race,” he said.
Kreuziger has identified his former Liquigas teammate Ivan Basso as one of the men to watch, particularly in the final week, although he was more circumspect about Frank Schleck’s chances. “I know Ivan, and in the final week, he’ll become very dangerous, whereas I’m sceptical about Schleck,” he said.