By Jean-François Quénet
After the late announcement of dissolving the Continental team Perutnina-Ptuj during the last week of November, Slovenian time trial champion Gregor Gazvoda thought his career was in limbo. But now it looks like an opportunity for him to show his talent to more cycling fans around the world as he secured a start with high regarded Japanese squad Meitan-GDR.
The 27-year-old Gazvoda was a pure product of the Cycling Team Perutnina-Ptuj, which he joined when he started cycling at the age of 14. After finishing ninth at the U23 world time trial championship in Zolder, Belgium, in 2002, he developed his skills against the clock and became the national champion in 2007 and 2008 in a country where cycling talents aren't rare birds nowadays.
"I was devastated when I heard that my team was no longer existing at the international level", Gazvoda explained. Akira Asada, the manager of Meitan-GDR, had other plans. "As soon as I heard he was free, I was very interested to hire him." Asada found out about the availability of Gazvoda at the same time as he lost his best rider, Yukiya Arashiro. Arashiro's transfer to French ProTour team Bouygues Telecom was seen as a huge achievement for the Japanese squad that has put a lot of efforts into developing their riders on the European scene in the past few years.
"I wanted to find a team with a solid international program and Meitan-GDR exactly offers me that opportunity," Gazvoda said. He expects to debut his new career in Malaysia at Le Tour de Langkawi from February 9 to 15. "This is the kind of race I've always dreamt to take part in," said the amicable Slovenian. He came third in the 2.1 Tour of Slovenia's second stage and sixth in the Chrono des Nations in France in October, beating riders like Vladimir Gusev, Andriy Grivko, Philippe Gilbert and Thomas Voeckler.