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Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas) marked by Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).
34-year-old says sport has changed since Armstrong years
Twelve seasons riding for Italian teams was enough for Sylvester Szmyd to seek change. The experienced domestique announced his move to the Spanish Movistar team after five seasons at Liquigas and says a change of "scenery" was necessary to maintain motivation. He also added that his profession has changed a lot since the years of Lance Armstrong and believes the sport is now much cleaner.
"I think it was the right time for a change of scenery," said Szmyd on Biciclismo. "I needed to find other stimuli so I can remain motivated after 12 years as a professional. That is the reason for the change, to see what it’s like in another environment."
The experienced Szmyd is charged with supporting his new team captain Alejandro Valverde - who he beat atop Mont Ventoux at the 2009 Dauphiné Libéré - during the grand tours. The 34-year-old however, wants to be given the opportunity to lead the team at WorldTour events like the Tour of Poland.
"I know I cannot win a big tour at Movistar. They have two great riders who won the Vuelta [Valverde and Juan José Cobo]. Valverde is a great rider, he has always shown himself in every race and he can win on any terrain. He is a complete rider," Szmyd said.
"If I can be captain in races like the Tour of Poland that would make my career great, but I will have to prove this will be on the road."
Szmyd signed a two-year deal with Movistar but was not willing to put a stop-date on his professional carreer - that began in 2001 with Tacconi Sport - Vini Caldirola. The Polish rider has been around for long enough to witness the sport adapt and believes that Armstrong was a "great champion" but the revelations uncovered by USADA on the former Tour winner and his US Postal team have been important for the sport to regain credibility.
"Lance is a great athlete, I have no doubts. He won a world championship before being diagnosed with cancer and this is not something all achieve," noted Szmyd.
"The USADA case will help the sport in the future because it has changed, riders have other objectives, there is a different mentality and I think the practices of the past are being removed. Remember that no one is subjected to as many controls as professional cyclists."
The 25-rider Movistar team is using the following week to assemble for meetings and undertake product testing in Pamplona ahead of the 2013 which begins in January at the Tour Down Under. Szmyd added that he will likely begin his season, that will include two grand tours, at two races he is yet to attend: Tour de San Luis or Tour Down Under.