Will 2010 finally see a renaissance of the astounding climbing talents of José Rujano, that carried him to third place in the 2005 Giro d’Italia? The 27-year-old Venezuelan certainly believes so and has claimed that he will aim to not only ride this year’s Giro for his new team ISD-Neri, but win it. This will happen, he believes, because he is "the third best climber in the world".
Of course, we’ve heard this before from Rujano. After his manager forced a breakdown in Rujano’s relationship with Selle Italia boss Gianni Savio in the wake of the 2005 Giro, the Venezuelan moved on to Quick Step and, more recently, Caisse d’Epargne but failed to shine for either of the ProTour giants. Lately, though, Rujano has been showing better form, becoming just the third foreign winner of the Tour of Colombia last June, and the first foreigner to win there since 1957.
Speaking earlier this week to the Entorno Inteligente newspaper in his native Venezuela, Rujano stated: "I can’t go to the Giro just to race. No. I will fight to finish in the first three. I want to win it. I am much more mature now, I know what I have to do and the key thing is that the ISD-Neri team have accepted that my preparation must be the same as it was in 2005."
That year Rujano built up to the Giro by winning Venezuela’s Tour of Tachira and then finishing second at the Tour de Langkawi. Both races are on his 2010 programme. "I am going to be very careful doing the Tour of Tachira. My goal is to win but I can’t take any risks. I need to get into the rhythm of racing to be ready for Europe and I can assure that with this in mind I am following a superior training plan to the one I used in 2005," he said.
Pressed on why he believes he can compete with the best at the Giro, Rujano responded: "At the moment I consider myself the third-best climber in the world, behind the Spaniards Alberto Contador and Joaquím Rodríguez. I don’t think Armstrong and Andy Schleck are natural climbers. Of course, they are good in the mountains, but they don’t have the capacity of a pure climber. Someone was saying, and quite rightly, ‘I want to see Rujano up against Armstrong and Schleck. He would beat them.’"
Aware that ISD won’t be selected for the Tour de France, Rujano is hoping to make a debut appearance at the Vuelta a España later in the year.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).