Stapleton: Lövkvist a future champion

Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad) leads

Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad) leads (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Thomas Lövkvist's overall Giro d'Italia lead is another representation that cycling's next generation has arrived, according to Columbia-Highroad owner Bob Stapleton. Lövkvist wears the maglia rosa heading into today's 125 kilometre stage to Alpe di Siusi.

"Tommy is kind of a future champion," said Stapleton. "He's exactly the type of guy cycling will be built around. He's extremely intelligent and focused. He's got a fantastic character. He doesn't tolerate weaknesses.

"He's one of the hardest at training, our main problem with him is even to slow him down," he added. "It's actually much better to hold a rider back than have to push him."

Stapleton acquired Lövkvist from Française des Jeux at the end of 2007. The Swede began his career with the French squad back in 2004, but this season has proven to be a watershed year for the rider.

"He was looking for something new and we were looking for a talent like him," said Stapleton. "I appreciated that Marc Madiot released him, because he was still under contract."

A clause in Lövkvist's contract with the French team gave him the option to leave the squad, on the condition another team offered him more money and Française des Jeux not be willing to match the offer.

"We didn't want to retain him against his will," said Madiot, even though he hoped to make Lövkvist the captain of Française des Jeux for the Tour de France. "I'm happy for him that he gets this pink jersey now. I've watched it on TV."

Française des Jeux isn't taking part in this year's Giro due to a roster reduced to 24 riders.

Stapleton said he has a lot of respect for Madiot's views on cycling. Both teams are known for standing firm against doping.

"I wouldn't have joined a team with a bad reputation about drugs," said Lövkvist, who has also adopted a firm stance against the sport's doping problems. This alignment in views, in addition to Lövkvist's ability, is why Stapleton says Lövkvist is a person "cycling will be built around".

"Coming to our team gave him a new momentum," said Stapleton. "He'll continue to progress."

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