Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) have played down their own chances of overall success in the 2013 Tour de San Luis, indicating Tejay van Garderen as the pre-race favourite for the Argentine stage race.
Nibali, who won the race in 2010, and Rodriguez agreed with Alberto Contador, selecting the American as the man to beat due to the 19.2 kilometre individual time trial on stage on stage 4.
Van Garderen has yet to even comment on his own race ambitions but the Spanish and Italian axis is an early indication of their approach to the race and perhaps a test to see how van Garderen handles the mantle of race favourite in a race where controlling the peloton for seven days and with 6 teammates will be difficult work.
"We start the season earlier and earlier. For me, I’m not used to racing in January but it’s good to be here because of the cold weather in Europe," Rodriguez said.
"All I know is that I’m not in condition. I’m not here for the general classification. Also there’s the time trial so I’ll focus on the mountain stages and try and do something there. I’ll give everything in the time trial but it’s a huge test for me. The third stage is the first major one for the GC and we could have big gaps but the rider who wins the time trial has a very good chance of sealing the overall victory."
Both Nibali and Rodriguez have made marked improvements against the clock in the last 12 months. The Spaniard put in a more than respectable ride against the clock in last year’s Vuelta, while Nibali lost a shade over a minute against van Garderen in last year’s Tour de France 41.5km test in Besançon. The Italian spent last weekend in Milan and on the track in Brescia with Specialized, developing a new time trial position.
"It’s the first time I’ve been here and it’s good for preparing for the spring races. I’m here to find some rhythm for the next set of races," Nibali said.
"It’s the same for everyone here. For me I’ve got to understand what my condition is and if I’m to pick a favourite, it’s van Garderen, simply because of the 19.2 kilometre time trial. Last year Contador said he wasn’t in great condition but he did well too."