Caisse D’Epargne-Illes Balears' leader in the Giro, Francisco Perez, believes that José Ivan Gutiérrez will be the man to watch from the Spanish outfit during the three weeks around Belgium and Italy. Perez is happy with the team's lineup for the loop of Italy, and is confident that Gutiérrez's ability in the mountains and against the clock will see him perform well overall during the three weeks.
"Although I will be the leader, I think that José Iván Gutiérrez will be the main reference for us, because he has improved obviously in the mountain stages, and we cannot forget that he is great specialist race against the clock," said Perez, before he pointed out that the well-rounded nature of the team means it should perform well as a unit. "In [Marco] Fertonani we also have a solid performer in the mountains, apart from one of our younger riders, José Luis Carrasco. I know Vladimir Efimkin very well because he won the Tour of Portugal last year. Joan Horrach is very consistent, and I hope that he will finish well positioned in the general [classification]," he said.
Perez was quick to point out that this edition of the Giro will be particularly difficult, especially with the Dolomites to climb during the last week. "This Giro is especially hard, mainly because the Dolomites are during the last week, with the Pordone, San Pellegrino, Aprica...where the Giro must be decided," he said. "People like Rujano, Garate, Parra, Pérez Cuapio, Simoni have real possibilities of winning. The profile of the Alpine stages don't really suit me, and I think [a high place on] the general will be difficult for me - in this case, I prefer to obtain a stage win," he added.
As for his own form, Perez said he's pleased with how he feels going into the year's first grand tour. "At the end of February I won the Clásica de Almeria, which really signaled the beginning of my season," he said. "Since then I have been polishing the form until the Vuelta a Castilla y León, in which I finished eighth. The results of recent training are optimistic, but in my region we don't have mountains like the Alps, and that makes you start with some difficulties in this sense," he explained.
Courtesy of Antonio Salmerón Ato