Katusha general manager Viacheslav Ekimov says that of the Giro d’Italia's four summit finishes this week, Saturday's ascent to Montecopiolo is the one which suits his team leader Joaquim Rodriguez the best.
Rodriguez ability to blast off on the steepest of slopes has wowed fans for the last few years, with the latest demonstration of his ‘explosive’ acceleration on the climbs coming in the Volta a Catalunya's stage to La Molina. That netted him the stage and ultimately the overall win.
In this opening segment of the Giro, there are four summit finishes, and Ekimov estimates that although the first comes as soon as Wednesday, Saturday’s first category ascent to Montecopiolo, by far the steepest and with a 13 percent 'ramp’ near the finish, is the best for Purito.
Either way, the former pro tells Cyclingnews, from stage five onwards the 'shadow boxing' so typical for first week GC contenders, even whilst they wait for the big days in the Dolomites and Alps, is going to get more intense. And an early win does no harm whatsoever to an overall contender’s motivation.
"Definitely this week is again for the GC riders to try to figure out who’s doing what, so this is kind of unpredictable week," Ekimov said.
"A stage win is always good for morale both for yourself and for the team and Purito has real ambitions here, for sure. But I think Saturday is the best day for him."
"On the previous stages, a lot more riders will still be together at the finish. Saturday is harder," and therefore more suited to him Ekimov said.
However, as Ekimov points out, not winning would be no disaster. "It's the third week that counts. Right now, this isn’t crucial. There’s still two weeks to go."
"In Ireland," where Ekimov himself raced back in 1990 or 1991 in the now-defunct Nissan Classic, as he recalls, "wearing a Panasonic [team] jersey" - "the team time trial was not our day at all, even the rain was falling on us more than other teams."
"But the important thing is he [Joaquim] is still within range of the other GC guys."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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