Finnish champion on the right track after Omega Pharma-Lotto’s great Giro start
Omega Pharma-Lotto, the first team to have ridden the inaugural team time trial of the Giro d’Italia in Turin, kept the best time until HTC-Highroad crossed the line. The Belgian squad finished fourth, something nobody really expected. Finnish champion Jussi Veikkanen wants to take advantage of the good start for delivering results in his fourth Giro d’Italia.
“We also didn’t expect to finish that high on the results sheet”, Veikkanen admitted to Cyclingnews prior to the start of stage 2 in Alba. “Our staff said that it would be nice to match the team’s performance of last year.”
Since he turned pro in 2005, the Scandinavian was racing for Française des Jeux but the team he joined recently was seventh at the team time trial of the Giro from Savigliano to Cuneo last year, preceding teams like Garmin-Transitions and Saxo Bank that are more known for being specialised in TTT than the Belgian team still remembered for its fiasco at the 2009 Tour de France.
“Except from Sebastian Lang, we came to the Giro with riders who aren’t specialists of time trial, so it looked like a difficult challenge to come seventh again”, Veikkanen commented. “But we’ve worked very nicely on this event. Lang and our directeur sportif Michael Eleijzen who was still a rider in the team last year set the orders for the turns. We had our first specific day of training on Thursday, we went through the technique quite well, and we did the same on Friday but a bit faster. Everyone was up for it. We did the recon quite fast on Saturday morning despite the railway crossing and the slippery corners and we had a great race after that. We could have done 20 more kilometres at the same speed!”
Being the first team in action, Omega Pharma-Lotto stayed on top of the classification for one hour. As Veikkanen was their first man to have crossed the line, he was the virtual pink jersey and was therefore kept the officials of the Giro near the anti-doping caravan until HTC-Highroad bettered their time. “I watched big teams like Saxo Bank coming and the officials kept telling me that I had to stay”, the Finn remembered.
“To be honest, yes, I’ve dreamt of taking the pink jersey”, he continued. “I’ve had so much time to think about why I was there that it touched my mind. It would have been such an honour!”
The dream is over now and Veikkanen is back at doing his normal job as a team player. “We have Adam Blythe who is quite fast for the bunch sprints, and Klas Lodewyck is third at the best young rider competition, so we’d like to help him get some time bonus for the white jersey. As for myself, I’m not going to fight for pink. I’ll aim at making the breaks at the end of the first week.
“This is my fourth Giro”, Veikkanen added. “In 2007, we had a terrible experience with the weather and the whole bunch stopped in a tunnel to change clothes. Coming from Finland, I should have been used to the cold but this remains my worst memory of the Giro. Every time I made to Milan, I went home with the fabulous feeling that I had achieved something by finishing this race. This time around, I’d like to go with a stage win in my bag.”