Baranowski wants a perfect 10

32 year-old Pole Dariusz Baranowski is one of the stalwarts of the Liberty Seguros team during the Giro. Nicknamed "Darek" by his teammates, Baranowski is in pursuit of a "perfect 10": to complete his 10th grand tour without abandoning. In his 11 year career, Baranowski has ridden five Tours de France, two Vueltas a España, and two Giri d'Italia, and finished them all.

Baranowski has ridden in three of the best teams in the world: US Postal until 1998, Banesto from 1999-2002, and in Liberty Seguros since last year, after one season with the Polish CCC team. "In these three teams I have been fine," he said. "When I was in US Postal, it was a team that was beginning and that little by little was becoming big. Then, in Banesto, I worked for the big leaders as Zülle or Chava Jiménez, and here in Liberty Seguros-Würth, I have continued doing the same work for Roberto Heras or now Scarponi.

Baranowski just missed out on being part of Lance Armstrong's incredible six Tours in a row, leaving the team at the end of 1998. "In 98, Lance did not do the Tour as I did, but he went to the Vuelta. We coincide in some other races and in the preseason, but since then, when we meet, we always chat a bit."

Why did you change to Banesto, did they make you an offer? "Yes, because of it, and because that year there were many changes in US Postal. I was one of those that left."

Of these three teams, which environment do you like the most? "Initially I liked that of US Postal, because it was my first team, but then I started feeling good in Spain and now, in Liberty Seguros-Würth, I feel like I'm with my family."

In the Giro you finished 12th in 2003, with CCC. Were you the leader at the time? "No, we came with Pavel Tonkov as leader, but he had to abandon after two weeks and I ended up being the leader, although the race was very advanced I limited myself to following the best wheels, because we did not have team for anything else either."

Which other Giro did you ride? "2002 was the first one, when Banesto came with Piepoli as leader."

How do you see the Giro overall? "It is very nice, with a parcours that's always very hard, because the Italian climbs have steep slopes. I like the race, though I prefer the Tour's climbs, longer and not as steep."

And the Giro 2005? "I believe that it is the hardest of recent years and, especially, with the ProTour, the best teams of the world have come, the participation has improved and gained prestige. This year looks like more the Tour, it's much more competitive."

Of the three grand tours, which do you like the most? "The Tour has the most prestige, but the Vuelta a España is the one I like most. I don't know exactly why, but it has very nice mountains."

Although he continues living in Poland, Dariusz Baranowski spends long periods in Lloret de Mar, Spain, where he used to bring his wife, Agnieszka, and his son, Alan. "Now it is more difficult, because Alan is already eight years old and goes to the school, but when he was smaller we were coming to Spain with two of my dogs."

Dogs? "I have five, two Alsatian dogs that live in the garden, and three bulldogs that are inside the house, two French bulldogs, smaller (about 15 kilos each) and an English bulldog that we have bought now."

Why the interest in bulldogs? "Because they are very nice and have a character that they seem to be almost human."

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