Karsten Kroon will be the leader of Team Saxo Bank in Ronde van Vlaanderen this Sunday, in Belgium. The Dutch rider finished fifth in the Brabantse Pijl last Sunday and will do his utmost to deliver his squad a victory.
With Fabian Cancellara still struggling for form since his training injury sustained at the beginning of the month, Kroon will be the outfit's sole leader at the race, revealed sports director Lars Michaelsen to Belgian Sportwereld.
"We have to count on Karsten Kroon in the Ronde," said Michaelsen. "Matti Breschel is not yet on his best form. Kurt-Asle Arvesen won last year in Harelbeke, but now it's a little different. He'll be turning his wheels to get some racing kilometres into his legs, I think."
Cancellara will still be hoping to factor in the race. "He knows the course and can add a ton of experience to the team. He is a rider who looks beyond his own ambitions. If he's not great, he hasn't got a problem putting himself at the service of a teammate who has a winning chance. Like two years ago in Paris-Roubaix, where [Stuart] O'Grady won."
Kroon, who finished seventh last year and may challenge is keeping his feet in the ground. "I can dream of victory, although I know that it will be immensely difficult. If I'm on the podium in Meerbeke I will be overjoyed," said the 33-year-old.
"The amount of spectators and their enthusiasm make it the most beautiful course! There is nothing that matches climbing the Kapelmuur with the best. It gives you goose bumps on your arms. Even if it rains and the wind blows – it makes the whole thing just more heroic."
With Saxo Bank having scored only a few victories thus far this season – a drought compared to last year – the pressure is on for a win. However, there’s no "negative pressure" according to Kroon. "Last year, we had the wind in our sails. It just flowed, from Tirreno to the Tour to the Olympic Games. You have to know when to enjoy it, but also realise that it can't always be like that."
Kroon had words of praise for the behaviour of his team owner, Bjarne Riis, in comparison to some reactions at Silence-Lotto, another squad that is getting nervous for a major win. "I think it's great that Bjarne Riis reacts very calmly now that it's not going so well. I don't understand Silence-Lotto at all. Already after Kuurne [on March 1 - ed.] they panicked. That's not the way to go with a team."
"The difference with last season is big," Michaelsen said. "We're not so happy with it, but that's just the way it goes in life sometimes. ... Patience is the word of order..." (HK)
(Who will win the 2009 Ronde van Vlaanderen? See our forum.)