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Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) sets the pace in the lead group.
Russian star ready for the Giro after Geox Tour de France omission
Two years after winning one of the less mountainous editions of the Giro d'Italia (the centennial), Denis Menchov is back for a totally different type of racing with a lot of hard climbs on the menu, but the Russian from Geox is also more motivated because he won't get a chance to ride the Tour de France for the first time since 2001.
It's no secret that he wasn't pleased with the decision of Rabobank to not let him defend his crown at the Giro last year.
"But it was in the interest of the team to have me in the best condition for the Tour de France," said the man who came third behind Alberto Contador and Fränk Schleck in July 2010.
"Physically, I'm well," warned Menchov who chose to only take part in the Tour de Romandie (he finished 14th) in the past five weeks. "What I've done in Switzerland last week was good enough. I think my training has been good."
The Giro is a little bit special this year," he continued. "The second part is really hard. In a Grand Tour, what counts is the condition anyway, not the number of hills or how hard they are. It's not going to be everyone against Contador. He is the most difficult to beat of all our rivals but other riders also look very well before the start of the Giro. Five or six riders can win it. Nibali is probably the other hot favourite, now that he has won a Grand Tour at last year's Vuelta. Whoever has won a Grand Tour is a more serious contender than anyone who hasn't yet. Experience counts so much on three weeks of racing."
Geox team manager Mauro Gianetti stated that the disappointment of not riding the Tour de France despite having former winner Carlos Sastre in addition to Menchov is now behind them. "We've transformed it in an advantage to prepare for the Giro the best we could," said the Swiss.
"I hope to be back at the Tour de France next year," the 33-year-old told Cyclingnews. "I keep my line of trying to win Grand Tours as I've done in the past with the Vuelta and the Giro. But mostly, I'm still here to enjoy cycling. I want to do it for two or three more years."