Quick Step's Kevin Seeldraeyers is learning the secrets of three-week stage races at this year's Giro d'Italia with the aim of becoming Belgium's long awaited Grand Tour contender. The 22-year-old has taken control of the young riders' classification.
"I want to try race for the classification in the Grand Tours," Seeldraeyers told Cyclingnews. "I have not done so bad here at the Giro d'Italia. I will try to keep improving."
Seeldraeyers' progress is impressive. He finished the Giro d'Italia in 73rd overall last year working for Quick Step team-mates Paolo Bettini and Giovanni Visconti. This year he won the Paris-Nice's young riders' classification and placed seventh overall. After 16 days of racing at the Giro d'Italia, he is 15th overall and leads young riders' classification with 4:13 on Italy's Francesco Masciarelli.
"I was also going good in Paris-Nice, so I had the idea to come here and race for the classification," he said. "It is going good for me, better than expected."
Seeldraeyers took over the young rider's classification for riders 25 and under from Columbia-Highroad's Thomas Lövkvist in Monday's mountains stage to Monte Petrano. His Swedish rival lost ground on the final of four climbs, the 10.4-kilometre mountaintop finish.
"Lövkvist was dropped early on, but Masciarelli is now only around four minutes behind me," said Seeldraeyers. "I knew Masciarelli was going good so I tried not to lose too much time to him on the final climb.
"There are some hard days to come," he added. "If I had one bad day my then I will lose my place in the classification, I just hope the others have a bad days."
There are two particular hard days to come: today's stage to Blockhaus and Friday's stage to Vesuvio. "If I don't lose any more time on Blockhaus or Vesuvio then it is good," he said. "I'd say I have a 50 percent chance of keeping the jersey."
Belgium's last Grand Tour winner was Johan De Muynck, who won the 1978 Giro d'Italia. The most famous is Eddy Merckx, who won five editions of the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, and one Vuelta a España.