By Gregor Brown
Danilo Di Luca, winner of the 2007 Giro d'Italia, is concerned that the 2009 edition could be custom-made for Lance Armstrong. The Italian explained that the possible inclusion of a 61.5-kilometre time trial in the Italian three-week race, May 9 to 31, will work in the favour of his rival.
"If this is true then the Giro is definitely better suited to him. I hope that it is a shorter time trial. If it is that long then I have to attack on any climb available," Di Luca said to Cyclingnews from his home in Pescara, Italy.
Race organiser RCS Sport will present the official route of the Giro d'Italia on Saturday, in Venice. In October it announced that the race will begin with a 21-kilometres team time trial in Venice. The long time trial from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore is likely to appear on stage 12.
The 2009 Giro, celebrating its centenary year, is set to have one of the most illustrious lists of participants in years. Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong announced he would race the Giro as part of his comeback following a three and a half-year retirement.
"Knowing Armstrong, he will be there to win it. Maybe he is the man to do it, even if it has been three years since he last raced. He will not be here to watch the race, and he should be kept in check," said Di Luca.
Other favourites include current Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre, Ivan Basso, Denis Menchov and Gilberto Simoni. Damiano Cunego, the 2004 winner, will not race and will concentrate instead on the Tour.
"They are three very strong rivals, so the Giro will be open and uncertain until the end," added Di Luca. "The Giro d'Italia ends up being the most important race. For the Giro it is very beautiful. The organisers are working well and the Giro can rise to the same level as the Tour de France."
Di Luca won the 2007 Giro when riding for Team Liquigas. He will represent Team LPR in 2009, which also features sprinter Alessandro Petacchi. He won this year's Giro dell'Emilia, which was his last race of the season.