Denis Menchov came to the Giro d'Italia late in his career, but he fell in love with it when he raced it for the first time last year.
"I enjoyed it a lot, and I wanted to come back with better preparation for better results," he said after winning stage five this year. Wednesday's win moved him into the prestigious ranks of riders who have won stages in all three Grand Tours. At the Alpe di Siusi, Menchov reproduced a style of finishing that he once deployed to beat Floyd Landis in Pla de Beret during the 2006 Tour de France.
Menchov was fifth last year at the Giro, when he used the Italian event as preparation for the Tour de France, a race he did not win although he did get to wear the maillot jaune in the absence of some of the top favourites. Apart from skipping Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year, Menchov has adopted the same program as in 2008. He has done the Tour of Andalucia, won the Tour of Murcia, finished fifth in the Tour of Castilla y Leon and finished 11th in the Tour of Romandie prior to lining up in Venice. "But I trained harder for the Giro this year," he admitted.
"I proved last year that it's possible to ride both Giro and Tour at a high level. I know I can be good at this one and at the other one as well. But this year the competition is high at the Giro than at the Tour."
Menchov was so serious about the Giro this year that he went to reconnoitre the course of the Sestri Levante time trial with his Italian agent Raimondo Scimone. "It's not a course for pure specialists but for all around riders," he said, including himself in the second category.
Therefore, stage 12 is Menchov's next goal. "My interest is to stay in the bunch until the time trial, when time differences might be important because the race will last between one and half hour to one hour and 45 minutes," he said.
At the age of 31, his style is unlikely to change. The calculating Menchov is not expected to take any further risks between now and stage 12.