In his third year with HTC-Columbia, Craig Lewis will make his long-awaited Grand Tour debut at the Giro d’Italia in Amsterdam on Saturday afternoon.
"As early as September last year, we decided in a team meeting that it would be my main goal for 2010," the rider from Greenville, South Carolina, told Cyclingnews in the Netherlands.
In 2008, Lewis missed what had been expected to be his Grand Tour debut when Team Highroad didn’t take part in the Vuelta a España. He then had to skip the Spanish event last year to return home for the US national championships.
"I’m happy to be here," he said. "I’m not nervous. The race and the stages might be longer than what I’m used to, but it’s still the same guys out there. I’ve seen stages 19 and 20 with the big climbs, the Gavia and so… They are tough!"
Lewis’ team, HTC-Columbia, is expected to be a prominent during the first week of the Giro, like last year when Mark Cavendish and Thomas Lövkvist both held the leader's pink jersey. The US squad also won six stages, including the team time trial, as well as individual stage victories for Edvald Boasson Hagen, Konstantin Sioutsou and Cavendish.
"We don’t have a big favourite for the mountains, but Andre Greipel is up for some stage wins", Lewis said. "I’ve done Tour of Poland and Tour of Austria with him last year; I know his style. It would be great to ride in front of the bunch with my teammate in the pink jersey on my wheel during the first week. We’d like to defend it in the team time trial as well."
"It’s always been a dream of mine to make it to this level of racing," said the 25-year-old American, who's known as former-teammate George Hincapie’s protégé. "Without [George] and his brother, I wouldn’t be here," he added. "It’s not only me but all the riders [on the team] who miss him as well."
Lewis has had to go his own way now that Hincapie has moved on to BMC Racing Team, but is ready to start a new chapter in own career at the Giro.