After a debut season with Fuji, Fredrik Kessiakoff is brimming with excitement as he embarks on his second road season with his new team, Garmin-Transitions.
The former mountain bike rider turned to road cycling in 2009 and competed in over 100 days of racing, taking in two Grand Tours and securing a number of promising results. After such a demanding year, Kessiakoff has taken an extended off-season, but despite signs of fatigue he will be Garmin's potential overall leader at this year's Giro.
"So far it's been going well. I've had a bit of fatigue and tiredness in my legs. The training is going well, though. I started a bit later than usual but I felt that I needed those extra days to recover," Kessiakoff told Cyclingnews.
Kessiakoff, who only had a one-year deal with Fuji, was approached by Garmin in April 2009. It was an easy decision for the Swede when it came to signing for the argyle-clad team. Embracing their philosophy on cycling and being a rider that prides himself on racing clean, he was also impressed with the level of support on offer at Garmin.
"There are maybe five teams that I would call dream teams. Garmin is certainly one of those. When Jonathan Vaughters approached me I only had a one-year contract. At that time I'd been racing really well and he was missing someone for that period. He wanted someone who could do well in some of the week-long races in the spring, who could help the team and develop further.
"Their mentality towards doping is something that attracted me. Here's a team that says 'we are here to get publicity for sponsors but not through just winning'. If you tell the riders it's just about winning then you're putting a gun to their heads and saying that if you don't perform you're out. Maybe Garmin doesn't win every race but when they do win you see the joy on their faces and it's done clean."
Kessiakoff didn't enter cycling with the blinders on. He knows that the sport has its problems and that they're perhaps more prominent in road cycling than any other discipline in the sport - or at least more public. However, the 29-year-old Swede believes that the fight is being won and that more and more riders are proving that clean racing can achieve results.
"The love for the sport is greater than the problems and I love road cycling," he said.
"Of course you can look at some results and you know that some of them are not achievable. In the old days you knew that some of the wins were achieved through doping. I'm not blind, I know the sport has its problems but what's important to me in my career is being able to look back and think I'd done everything I could within my power but that I did it all clean. That's my mission. If that's fiftieth or tenth at the Giro, time will only tell, but I want to look back and say that I'm clean. Every year that passes the chances of winning clean is greater and greater."
Kessiakoff will compete at Pais Vasco this year, before spearheading the team at the Giro. While 2009 was the year of gaining as much experience as possible, this year is about racing less but racing smarter. After the Giro, he plans on taking an extended break before possibly riding the Vuelta in the second part of the season. His experience from his first year of racing should benefit him.
"I got all that experience and looking back I did a lot of beautiful races and it's worth a lot. Maybe it would have been better to have a slightly easier race schedule as there were some parts when I felt a bit tired.
"Compared to mountain biking I've learnt that you can't do every race at a 100 percent effort. If you do 100 days of racing you have to learn to sit in the bunch and just eat and rest as best you can. Even if it's for a few days. That was the biggest lesson and it took me a long time to learn that."