The enigmatic Alexandre Vinokourov is Astana's figurehead at the Tour de France, but the Kazakh squad may yet have another card to play in the shape of Roman Kreuziger. The 25-year-old Czech will use the opening days of the race to assess his form before deciding on whether to aim for a high overall placing in Paris or devote his energies solely to supporting Vinokourov.
Speaking to Cyclingnews at the Tour presentation in Le Puy du Fou on Thursday, Kreuziger admitted that he still does not know how well he has recuperated from what was a particularly gruelling Giro d'Italia.
"Everybody is asking me that question and it's a hard one to answer," Kreuziger grinned. "But let me get through the first five stages, and I'll be better placed to give you an answer."
Kreuziger has finished 9th overall in each of the past two editions of the Tour, but he said that it was still too early to tell if he would be capable of bettering those finishes this time around. With Vinokourov aiming to wear the yellow jersey in what is set to be his final Tour, the Astana squad will be dedicated to him in the opening days of the race.
"I'm here to support Vino, but after five days or so I'll have a better idea of how the legs are. Then, if I'm able, I'd gladly try something in the general classification," Kreuziger said. "When Vinokourov needs my support, I'll support him, but if there's a chance to do something on GC, and the legs allow it, then I'd go for that too."
Kreuziger has not raced since the Giro, where he finished sixth overall and took the white jersey of best young rider. He divided his time in June between the Czech Republic and Italy, as he attempted to recover from his exertions at the corsa rosa.
"I did two training camps," he said. "One at home at in the Czech Republic in the mountains for two weeks, where I rested and then started getting back out on the bike, and then one for 9 or 10 days in Livigno. After that, I did five days with the team."
The Giro was the first time that Kreuziger had raced a Grand Tour as an outright team leader, and he confessed that he was initially disappointed with his final placing in Milan. Even though he fell short of the final podium, however, Kreuziger consoled himself with the belief that he is continuing to progress as a stage racer.
"Taking the white jersey was certainly a positive because it was a bonus point, but in the beginning, I wasn't too happy with sixth place," Kreuziger admitted. "But then when you consider the climbs that we had to do there and everything else, I think that I made a leap of quality in respect to last year. So that's certainly something that has given me a lot of confidence for the races to come."