Saxo Bank's Gustav Larsson finally achieved a great career win as he rode the fastest time in the closing time trial of the Giro d'Italia after riding for three weeks as a helper for rookie and teammate Richie Porte, who finished seventh overall and as best young rider.
In the middle of the arena of Verona where the final presentation of the Giro d'Italia was held, Larsson experienced a strange feeling. "I don't know what it means to win such a prestigious stage here," the Swede told Cyclingnews. "I'm just doing the one thing I'm good at."
This "one thing" is time trialling, a speciality in which he has been the national champion a couple of times (2006 and 2007). Above all, he's a man who has produced impressive showings at the world level on different occasions: fourth at the World Championship in 2004 at the age of 23, second at the Olympic Games in Beijing and second again behind Fabian Cancellara at last year's world championship in Mendrisio.
"This is my first stage win in a Grand Tour, and I hope it's not the last one," he said. "The race went well for me today. I just rode as steadily as I could. Yesterday, after helping Richie (Porte) to get back on in the climb to Livigno, I tried to take it easy on the Gavia to preserve myself for today."
"When I watched Wiggins at the halfway point, I knew I had nothing to fear from him because he would never go faster than me downhill, but later on I was really afraid of (Marco) Pinotti. He was 12 seconds ahead of me at halfway. But unlike many other riders, I got better in the last couple of days in the Giro."
This is the trademark of the tall and solid Swede, who started his career in 2001 at the Crescent team under the guidance of Tommy Prim, who is a former runner up of the Giro d'Italia and who recommended him to Giancarlo Ferretti. Larsson rode for Fassa Bortolo, Française des Jeux and Unibet before joining CSC-Saxo Bank in 2008. With the Danish outfit, he became a world class athlete.
"It's the 2008 Giro (14th overall) that prepared me for the Beijing Olympics," he said. "In between these two events, I stayed at altitude for training and to maintain the level I achieved during the three weeks of racing. Last year, I felt strong at all the races after the Tour de France." In fact, he finished second at the Tour of Missouri and won the Tour of Poitou-Charentes before collecting the silver medal for time trial at the worlds.
Larsson is known for being a hard worker in his team. He's been instrumental in the success of Porte at the Giro. "What Richie has done here isn't as much of a surprise for me as it is for everyone else," Larsson said. "I had seen at the training camps that he produces a lot of watts in the climbs, and he's very aerodynamic for time trials."
The tall Swede is prepared to ride the Tour de France in the service of Fabian Cancellara and the Schleck brothers - Andy and Frank. "There's no team time trial this year, so I can be helpful in the mountains," he said. "Before July, I need to get down to my optimal weight, which is 77 kilos. I believe I'm still at 80 now." This says a lot about Larsson's power against the clock.