After a relatively turbulent season, Roman Kreuziger is ready to wipe the slate clean and start again, his two main focuses being to support Alberto Contador in the Tour de France and to pursue his own stage racing ambitions.
Kreuziger followed a similar programme to Contador this year, shepherding the Spaniard to success in the Giro d’Italia in May before defending him in the mountains at the Tour de France. The Czech rider had the added pressure from his Biological Passport case with the UCI but saw the charges against him dropped just ahead of the Tour. With one cloud lifted, he is heading into the off-season with his mind fully fixed on racing.
“It’s now about recovering and I’ll keep it like this until the middle of November. Then I’ll start racing in February. After doing some races with Peter [Sagan], like Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo, I’ll race Basque Country and then the Ardennes. Then I’ll do Suisse and then the Tour,” he told Cyclingnews at a Tinkoff-Saxo training camp in Croatia.
Tinkoff-Saxo’s primary stage racing target will be the Tour de France – a race they’ll head into with Contador as their undisputed leader. The Spaniard took on the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double this season but came unstuck in the second part of his challenge. With the Giro off the table in 2016 the team, according to Kreuziger, will arrive at the Tour with fresher minds as well as fresher legs.
“No Giro next year, definitely not, and what we saw this year was that it cost too much energy and we couldn’t come to the Tour with a fresh mind. I wasn’t exhausted at the start of the Tour, and at the beginning you don’t feel it because you’re motivated with a rider like Alberto Contador in the team. We missed some energy and the Giro-Tour, or Tour-Vuelta, is very hard.”
Kreuziger also believes that the Tour victory will most likely come down to three riders – Contador, Nairo Quintana and defending champion Chris Froome, although he would not rule out the experience of Alejandro Valverde nor a fifth rider to come from the rest of the GC contenders.
“Alberto knows that we’re 100 per cent there for him and we know if he sees that then he’ll push even harder for the victory. It’s never easy because the young riders like Quintana are coming up, Valverde is never tired and there’s Froome, and there will be other riders but I think it’s going to be the fight between Froome, Alberto, and Quintana.”
However, Kreuziger’s season is not just about support. With his case lifted he has the opportunity to put legal matters aside and focus entirely on racing his bike. A set of week-long stage races and the Ardennes provide Krueziger with the chance to ride for himself and, with his contract up at the end of 2016, he knows that he needs to deliver.
“I think I’ll do the Ardennes, Suisse, and Tirreno, I’ll race for myself. Finally I’m having a relaxed winter and I hope to build up well. I want to have a repeat season to the one that I had in 2013,” he said.
“Also my contract is up next year I have my feet on the ground and I hope to be back to where I was before. I hope the good years are coming.”