Wearing pink, Lövkvist is born a champion

Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad)

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

New race leader Danilo Di Luca was full of praise for the young man who preceded him in the maglia rosa, Swedish talent Thomas Lövkvist.

"He defended himself very well," said Di Luca. "I knew he was good because he had showed his qualities before but I didn't think he'd arrive there with us in the top three. I've been very impressed. We'll see how he goes in the time trial."

Obviously, Lövkvist was also happy with his ride. "That was a very good one," he told Cyclingnews after the stage. "I didn't think I'd be able to do that, I had to go deep. Not so many riders were up there at the end. I believe I've taken on a new dimension with this pink jersey on my shoulders. It would have been nice to keep it. From a personal point of view, I'd have liked to wear it longer for the team, but I understand it would have been difficult."

The 25-year-old is only five seconds down on GC and Michael Rogers' third position at 36 seconds gives Team Columbia-Highroad a comfortable situation. "This gives me more ambition for sure," Lövkvist said. "Now I know that I can stay up there with the best guys and I will as long as I can."

Lövkvist's also aware that he's now part of the history of the Giro d'Italia where his compatriots have shone in the past. "I've heard it from Tommy Prim who was my directeur sportif at Bianchi-Scandinavia when I was 19 years old," Lövkvist said. Prim was the last Swede to have worn the maglia rosa at the Giro d'Italia before Lövkvist - that occurred after stage one in 1983 following the win of Prim's Bianchi team in the team time trial, way before the famous Italian bike manufacturer was purchased by Swedish investors.

Lövkvist's talent was noticed by Prim when he finished fourth and sixth at the junior World Championships in Lisbon for the time trial and road race with very little experience. Lövkvist caught the attention of the Madiot brothers who signed him for Française des Jeux after he wore the yellow jersey at the Tour de l'Avenir at the age of 19.

Five days after celebrating his 20th birthday, Lövkvist won the Circuit de la Sarthe for Française des Jeux, a race that had revealed at the same age no less than Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond. Lance Armstrong got to know this hopeful young climber at the Dauphiné that same year in 2004 as Lövkvist made the front group a few times in the hills.

For different reasons, Lövkvist wasn't a frequent winner in the past five seasons. His win at the time trial of the 2007 Criterium International was an exception. "I've started well this year winning the Eroica," Lövkvist said. "Now at the Giro everything is possible."

Lövkvist came to the Giro d'Italia in support of Michael Rogers with the aim of preparing for the Tour de France where he might be Team Columbia-Highroad's captain. At the Giro and the Tour there's a still a lot more to be seen from the talented Swede.

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