No limit on Kruijswijk's ambition at Vuelta a Espana
Dutchman looks to replicate Giro d'Italia form in Spain
When asked if he would sign on the dotted line now for a top five overall finish in the 2016 Vuelta a España, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) hesitates for perhaps one second.
Then the answer comes back loud and clear: “Nope.” Kruijswijk, in other words, is looking for another major GC performance in the Vuelta to back up his already strong Grand Tour display in the Giro d’Italia this May, and he’s not ruling anything out.
These heightened ambitions are logical, given that just a few months ago the 29-year-old completed the Giro d’Italia in fourth overall after a major crash poleaxed any chance he had of defending his overall lead, almost within sight of the finish in Turin.
Since then, Kruijswijk has been mainly resting up and training, with his only two races the Clasica San Sebastian, where he finished a relatively anonymous 29th, and the Olympic road-race, where he took 34th.
Kruijswijk’s second goal of the season, though, is the Vuelta a España, where despite being relatively inexperienced, he hopes that his quieter approach path compared to other top overall contenders may play in his favour
“Hopefully I’ll be at the same level as in the Giro,” Kruijswijk told Cyclingnews before Saturday’s start. “But we’ll have to see. I had a long training period after the Giro, did the Olympics and was a little bit sick when I got home. Hopefully I’ll be fresher and will have some advantage on the rest of the riders who did the Tour and everything. We’ll have to wait and see for the first week.”
Kruijswijk admits that he would prefer it to be a slightly easier first week, in order to be able to ease himself out of training mode and into racing mode slightly less painfully, but as he sees it, “I have to be there. I still think, though, that the biggest differences will be in the last week and the second half of the Vuelta.” The first goal, he says, will be a “top five placing in the team time trial. We’ve got the guys to do that.”
Although Kruijswijk believes he may be at an advantage over the other GC contenders because he did not take part in the Tour, there is the question of his lack of Vuelta experience. The Netherlands Grand Tour specialist has taken part in the Giro six times and raced three Tours, but has only ridden only one Vuelta to date, back in 2011, when he finished 41st.
“It’s hard to say at this point who the top names will be here, but definitely Contador will be really focussed on this race after he crashed out at the Tour,” Kruijswijk said.
“We have to see what about Froome, he has had a busy program behind him, we’ll see how he’s recovered from the Tour and Olympics. For me, in any case, I think Contador is maybe the number one favourite.”
As for Kruijswijk, perhaps in one sense, after his superb Giro d’Italia, anything is a bonus. But to judge by his answer to where he wants to finish in the Vuelta, he is placing no limits on his ambitions in Spain.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.