Orica GreenEdge rider seeking Grand Tour debut in 2013
Two podium places from three bunch sprints is an encouraging sign for Aidis Kruopis who is the protected rider for Orica GreenEdge on the flat stages at Tour de Langkawi. Kruopis is one of the squad's budding up-and-coming sprinters alongside Leigh Howard and former under-23 world road race champion Michael Matthews but the Lithuanian is content to slowly develop his craft.
Kruopis was one of the team's most successful riders last season after moving into the WorldTour ranks with the newly-established outfit. The Lithuanian had been steadily making a name for himself, notching up wins in tough one-day Belgian races and signed for the ProTeam after spending the 2011 season with the Pro-Continental squad, Landboukrediet.
Last year, Kruopis took his biggest victory to date when he won stage four at the Tour of Poland and did it in style, beating Ben Swift (Sky) and Theo Bos (Blanco) to the line. Given Bos has already won two stages at Langkawi this year, Kruopis clearly has the speed to be among some of the best sprinters in the world. However, he's in no rush to move up the team hierarchy as there's still a lot to learn before pushing the likes of Matt Goss aside, according to the 26-year-old.
"I don't have that much experience but I think that each year I'm getting better," he told Cyclingnews. "I think I'm coming closer to a number of the really good sprinters. I'm still trying to develop myself over the next few years.
"For me it's a bit better when it's harder. That's the style of racing that I like," he added.
Riding for a team heavily stacked with sprint talent could be daunting for some but Kruopis is more than happy to be guided by those with plenty of experience, with Allan Davis performing lead-out duties for his younger teammate at Langkawi.
"We have a lot of good sprinters in the team so I'm just trying to learn from them and take their experience. They give me a lot of advice of what I need to do and it seems to be working very well," said Kruopis.
The combination racing in Malaysia is a relatively new ensemble, and with limited experience all working together, Kruopis has been relying on placement among the other teams rather than launching from an Orica GreenEdge lead-out.
"We change the group around quite a lot. In Qatar it was one group and here at Langkawi we have another group but the boys have been doing a good job for me, putting me in good position," he said.
"Travis put me with Alby [Davis] in the last k [on Stage 4] at the front and I was sitting top-five. I was left with Alby in the final and he just pushed all the Blanco guys off and I had Graeme Brown's wheel but I made a bit of a mistake. It's already pretty annoying because it's my fourth time in third-place this year."
Having already shown his ability in the sprints over the last season Kruopis is hoping to make his grand tour debut. He didn't seem overly concerned which one, adding that there was plenty of racing to get through before a decision would be made.
"I'll do a few of the classics in Belgium, probably E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem and Driedaagse van De Panne. After that I'll do a few other races like Circuit Cycliste Sarthe then Tour of Turkey a couple of weeks after. Something like that," said Kruopis
"Normally, I should be doing one of the grand tours but I'm not sure which one."
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