Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEdge) is yet to take a victory this season, but his consistency in the sprints has earned him the lead in the points classification at the Tour de Langkawi.
Kruopis looked his strongest on stage 9, when he sprinted early on the final bend. Unfortunately for the Lithuanian, he faded before the line and had to settle for third. “There was a big crash in the last 2km and we nearly crashed, we split after that and I was kind of on my own. I jumped a little bit in the front, behind Theo Bos, on the roundabout,” he told Cyclingnews at the finish.
“I stayed there till the end almost. In the last 700, Lancaster came to me and made a little bit more space for me but I started my sprint a little bit early, from 350, because there was that crazy corner in the end. I wanted to start first, but unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough to keep the pace.”
Kruopis currently holds a three-point lead over Tinkoff-Saxos’s Michal Kolar heading into the final day of racing. While he is happy with the result he would swap it for a victory on the final day. “I was looking for victories, but it’s also nice to wear the jersey. Every day is one more chance. You know how it goes in the sprints, so I will try every day,” he told Cyclingnews.
The Lithuanian rider is in his third season with Orica-GreenEdge. His debut year proved to be his most prolific with six victories, including a stage win at the Tour de Pologne. Since then he’s only notched up one victory, but he has a large haul of top 3 positions. Kruopis says that he has improved since 2012, but he still needs to find something to take the next step.
“It’s going better but I’m still missing something,” he explained. “I still need to improve a little bit more in the sprints. Everything is good in the team but I am missing some kick in the sprint. I just need to do some more specific training and exercises in a specific way, then I think it is going to work out.”
At 27, Kruopis is two years older than Marcel Kittel and a year younger than Mark Cavendish, although the Manxman’s peak came a few years earlier. He still believes that he can find that final kick to be able to match arguably the two fastest men in the peloton. “Everyone, if you do your job you want to be the best. You are always trying to compete with them. I hope that in a few years I can be as good as they (Cavendish and Kittel) are.”
Orica-GreenEDGE has a plethora of strong sprinters, including Michael Matthews and Matt Goss. However, Kruopis hasn’t considered a move, believing that there is plenty of room for his talents in the team. “We have a lot of sprinters but also a lot of qualities and different sprinters, more guys who can climb. I am more a guy who is better in the flat, so if it is a flat stage then almost every time it is for me.”
Kruopis will finally get his chance to ride a grand tour, at the Giro d’Italia this season, where he will play the role of lead sprinter for Orica-GreenEDGE.
Saturday is the final stage of the Tour de Langkawi, with only three points separating Kruopis and Kolar it is still all to play for. The Lithuanian says he won’t be wasting his energy at the intermediate sprints but will be looking for victory. “I will try to do another sprint tomorrow and keep the jersey. I am not going to go for the intermediate sprints, just in the final.”