Mt Etna singled out HTC-Highroad’s captain for the Giro d’Italia as Kanstantsin Siutsou. The Belarusian remained with the front group while teammate Marco Pinotti lost 4:47 to Alberto Contador. Siutsou is now entering the second phase of the corsa rosa but has one major regret.
"Since the inaugural team time trial we’ve won in Turin, I was hoping to get the maglia rosa," Siutsou admitted to Cyclingnews.
"I was only two seconds down and I’ve missed my opportunity. But against Contador, there was nothing I could do."
Still, Siutsou is in second position at 59 seconds so hope remains for the blossoming HTC-Highroad rider.
"We started the Giro with the intention of winning the opening team time trial and we did," directeur sportif Valerio Piva added at the start of stage 10 - prior to Mark Cavendish’s win in Teramo.
"We also wanted to win some bunch sprints and we didn’t make it during the first week. We also came with Marco Pinotti and Siutsou for the overall classification. Now we know that Siutsou will be our man even though the key part of the Giro has only just begun. Up to now, the most important [thing] was to not lose too much time."
"To be second on GC at the end would be great result for us with Siutsou," Piva continued.
"[Ideally] we’d like to have him in the top like last year with Pinotti (9th) - but to target the podium is more a dream than a reality for now. He has never ridden for GC so what he can achieve remains unknown for us as well."
Siutsou finished 16th in the 2008 Tour de France and 14th in the 2009 Giro d’Italia. During stage 9 to Mt Etna, he punctured his front wheel and had a crash because another rider bumped in to him. Considering this he did well to hang on to the front group in the final climb and not overextend himself by following Contador.
The 28 year-old is now in his fourth season with HTC-Highroad after riding for Fassa Bortolo (2005), Acqua e Sapone (2006) and Barloworld (2007). Having matured a long way in the last few years, Piva believes 2011 could be Siutsou’s year to shine.
"For various reasons, he hasn’t had his chance to ride for GC so far", Piva noted. "Our team is often built for preparing for bunch sprints. We never came to the Giro with a leader. One year, we rode for Michael Rogers. He came 7th (in 2009) and Siutsou was a great domestique for him. At the Tour de France, when Kim Kirchen finished 7th (in 2008), Siutsou played a big role in that final result as well - notably when he helped Kim on l’Alpe d’Huez."
"He’s a team player, really", Piva continued. "But he’s not a winner. When he won the 2008 Tour of Georgia, George Hincapie had been instrumental to keep him right on track. He tends to be nervous if the responsibilities are on his shoulders. We have to calm him down and build his confidence. He doesn’t have the arrogance of other great leaders."
"We would have liked to make him a team captain before. We actually had that plan for him for the Giro before the 2010 season but he had a bad crash at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and then he was out for an important part of the year. Then at the Vuelta, Peter Velits did so well (3rd overall) that Siutsou was a domestique again. But he’s got the ability to get a good overall result in a Grand Tour. He can even do well in time trials. He recovers well and usually finishes the third week in good shape," said Piva.
With such high praise it’s no wonder the HTC-Highroad director is interested to see how his young star can go in 2011.
"I’m curious to see just how far he can go in this Giro. We’ll just have to wait and see," said Piva.
The Giro d’Italia continues with the 11th stage from Tortoreto to Castelfidardo.