With an eye to the forthcoming Giro d'Italia, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) withdrew from the Tour de Yorkshire ahead of the tough final stage to Sheffield on Sunday. The Dutchman was a faller in Scarborough on Friday, but recovered to ride prominently in the finale of stage 2 to Harrogate.
Kruijswijk's LottoNL-Jumbo team explained on Sunday that he had no lasting injuries from the crash, and was withdrawn from the Tour de Yorkshire simply as a precaution ahead of the Giro, which gets underway in Sardinia on Friday.
"It was not planned before the race but yesterday after the stage we decided it was enough," LottoNL-Jumbo directeur sportif Addy Engels told Cyclingnews in Bradford. "Of course, he crashed on the first stage, so yesterday was a test to see how he could handle the injury. He handled it well, he worked well for the team in the final. His shape is good so we decided to give him an extra day of rest ahead of the Giro d'Italia instead of one day more of suffering."
Kruijswijk was one of many riders to come down in the finishing straight on Scarborough's windswept seafront on Friday afternoon, but beyond a blow to the chest, Engels said that he had reported no significant damage.
"He just hurt a little bit in the chest but yesterday he was able to race as he should. Of course, it was a nasty crash and without the crash for sure he would have done the race today, but now we give him an extra day to recover from it," Engels said.
With the Giro's start shifted forward to Friday in order to accommodate the additional rest day needed to bring the caravan from Sardinia to Sicily after the Grande Partenza, there were just four days between the finish of the Tour de Yorkshire and the start of the corsa rosa. Kruijswijk's early withdrawal means that he maintains the same five-day gap between Yorkshire and the Giro as the last two seasons.
Kruijswijk has raced the Tour de Yorkshire each year since its inception, using the British race to finetune his form ahead of the Giro after spending the majority of April training at altitude. That approach carried him to 7th overall in 2015 and 4th overall a year ago, and Kruijswijk saw no need to change tack in 2017.
"For Steven, in the last years we've seen this is the best combination – a long block of training at altitude and then a short, intense race as well to get that last bit," Engels said. "He did two days of intense racing, which is good. He was also in front in the final of stage 1 for the feeling, because in the Giro he has to be in front for every bunch sprint as well."
Kruijswijk was an assured maglia rosa in the final week of last year's Giro and looked set to claim overall victory only to crash on the descent of the Colle dell'Agnello two days from the finish in Turin and slip to fourth overall. Before the crash, Kruijswijk looked increasingly likely to become the first Dutch Grand Tour winner since 1980. Although his official target for this Giro is a place on the podium, there is no limit to LottoNL-Jumbo's ambition ahead of the race.
"In the end, we say podium but of course the aim is to make the best result possible," Engels said. "The ultimate goal is to win, but also there is another field of competitors this year so maybe we have to be satisfied with fifth in the end because four guys are stronger over three weeks. For the moment, the goal is podium. And if everything goes right, the ultimate goal is to win."