By Les Clarke in Wanze
Saunier Duval's Aaron Olson has been enjoying his first grand tour in the wet of Belgium, and as Cyclingnews caught up with the American before the fourth stage of the Giro in Wanze he explained that it's everything he thought it would be - including the weather. "I mean, it was great the couple of days before the race and the day of the prologue was alright," said Olson, "but since then it's been wet and dangerous - but the team's had good luck to stay out of trouble," he added.
As one of five Americans riding this year's Giro, Olson believes the increased interest in the 'Italian version of the Tour de France' from Americans can only benefit the strength of cycling in the States overall. "With Arsmtrong retiring, there's been a lot more Americans stepping up - I think there are five Americans in the Giro this year and quite a few Aussies; so there's quite a few English-speaking riders in the peloton," he said.
And the interest isn't just as a result of the increased numbers of US riders competing, according to the Saunier Duval rider. "I think there's a lot of interest in the Giro, especially with all the top Italians going for it. It makes it an exciting year, and for me it's great to be a part of it and riding for such a great leader [Gilberto Simoni]," he said.
Personally, Olson has achieved one of his big goals for the year just by being at the Giro, something that brings a big smile to his face. So what else for the rest of 2006? "I don't know," he said. "One of my biggest goals was to make one of the grand tour teams, and my number one choice this year was the Giro because of Simoni in his last year," he explained, before adding that, "Normally it would be to try and make the Tour [de France] team, but I'll take everything I can get and go from there."
"In terms of personal goals - it's my first year in the Pro Tour, so I just want to improve throughout the year and for now, make it to Milan," he said.
Speaking of making it to Milan, Olson believes the best way to approach the killer final stretch of the race will be to go into it a little blind, so to speak. "I've just [seen the Giro's big climbs] on the map, but not in person!" he exclaimed. "[Viatcheslav] Ekimov told us before Paris-Roubaix one time that sometimes it's better not to know what's ahead of you because you might actually do better.
"If you know, maybe you'll always have it in the back of your mind. So I'm going in blind, but it's going to be unbelievably challenging. I'm not exactly a climber, but I usually get better as the race goes on, so if I don't die before then hopefully I'll be alright!" he said with a laugh.
And as for another grand tour in 2006, the former Colavita rider is open to all suggestions. "I definitely think it would be possible; at least it would give me time to rest during the Tour and try and build back up for the Vuelta," he said. "It's always a possibly, but with the Spanish team it's a bit difficult - so many Spanish guys [will be] going for it - but we'll see. I wasn't originally planning on doing the Giro, but who knows...I'm just really happy to be here," he said.
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