Former Liquigas riders Robert Kiserlovski and Roman Kreuziger are reunited under the colours of Astana at Paris-Nice where team boss Alexandre Vinokourov has given them the green light to race for GC while the Kazakh himself is adamant that he would just be happy with a stage win.
With domestiques of the calibre of Andriy Grivko, Rémy Di Gregorio, Dimitriy Fofonov, Frederik Kessiakoff and Tomas Vaitkus, Astana is tipped by many observers as the strongest team at the 'race to the sun'.
"Yeah, I think so too", Kiserlovski told Cyclingnews on the start line of stage 2 in Monfort-L'Amaury. "Probably all the best riders of Astana at the moment are here at Paris-Nice. I hope we have all we need for winning."
For Kirserlovski and Kreuziger, Paris-Nice is only the second race of the season. Kiserlovski finished seventh of the Tour of Sardegna and the Classica Sarda while Kreuziger came 20th at the Tour of Algarve with a top 10 finish in the queen stage.
"I'm very happy with my start", said the Croatian who was the third man of Liquigas in the top ten overall of the Giro d'Italia last year (10th) while riding his first Grand Tour at the service of Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali.
"My early seasons sensations are pretty good", echoed the Czech. "But I'll have to be at my best for the Giro d'Italia."
Both "RK's" from Astana are on the same program, which includes Giro and Vuelta. They're both born in 1986 and have in common to be tall and skinny with great skills for climbing. They also have the same agent, Giovanni Lombardi. They kind of look like twins. "Twins, I don't know but we're friends for sure", said Kreuziger.
"I'm looking forward to tackle the climbs at Paris-Nice", added Kiserlovski who is aware that Friday's 27km long individual time trial will play a crucial role. "It'll be interesting to see what I can do because sometimes I ride pretty well against the clock and sometimes very bad. At the final TT of the Giro last year, I was very tired." Italian specialist Marco Pinotti passed him to finish ninth overall.
Kreuziger and Kiserlovski are the two up-and-coming riders on which Vinokourov plans to build the future of the Astana team until he develops young compatriots to take over from him. It's the KK factor of the Kazakh team.