Rujano relieved to be back in form
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rujano relieved to be back in form

by VeloNation Press at 11:58 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de Langkawi

José Rujano will leave Malaysia on Monday evening content that he has finally got his pro career back on track. Five years ago, he finished second in the Tour de Langkawi, then went on to a stunning performance in the Giro d’Italia. A stage win, the King of the Mountains title and third overall showed the promise of the then-23 year old, who signed a deal with Quick Step and was expected to go on to be a big star in the sport.

Things didn’t work out, though. He pulled out of the 2006 Giro d’Italia and failed to perform in the Tour de France. He moved to the team for 2007, then Caisse d’Epargne in 2008, but never got back to the same form. His career appeared to be in freefall when he failed to secure a contract in Europe for last season, and instead had to race for the small Venezuelan team, Gobernación del Zulia.

Fortunately, he was able to pick up some good results in South America last season, taking the Vuelta a Columbia and Vuelta a Venezuela. That helped him secure a deal with the ISD-Neri team, and he will ride the Giro d’Italia with it in May.

“I had a great year in 2005, and after that I changed team. I wanted to do well at the Tour de France but unfortunately I was sick there,” he told Velonation at the post-stage press conference.

“After that, I had a big crash in the Amstel Gold Race and it took me seven months to recover from that. I spent two years struggling, being unable to find the right condition, and only after that time I was myself again. That happened at the Tour of Columbia in 2008, which I think is an even harder Tour than the Tour of Italy, because there are even more mountains, and the mountains are as high as 3500 metres.”

Rujano showed a burst of confidence at the start of this year when he told the Venezuelan newspaper Entorno Inteligente that he considered himself to be near the very top of world cycling, in terms of uphill ability.

“Right now I think I am the third climber in the world after Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez,” he bragged. “Armstrong and Andy Schleck? They are strong on the uphills, but they are not natural climbers.”

At the time those words seemed like bravado but now, two months later, more people will be paying attention to his results and seeing if he can actually deliver on that statement. Rujano dominated the Genting Highland climb, finishing more than two minutes ahead of the next rider; the field in the Malaysian race was not as good as he will experience in Italy but, interestingly, he said that he was still some way off top form.

“Today I am at 75% of my best condition…I hope to reach my best form for the Giro d’Italia. I will work mostly on my climbing from now on in order to reach 100% of my condition for the Giro.

“My goal as to start campaigning for the Giro at the Tour de Langkawi. Winning the race was my first goal prior to the Giro.”

ISD-Neri team manager Luca Amoriello was clearly delighted with the victory, particularly after the team controlled the race for days in order to ensure that its climber had the chance he needed. “I am happy because the team worked for Jose for one week, and today Jose won it for the team,” he said on Saturday. “For Jose, the Tour de Langkawi is motivation for him for the Giro. Now we can go to the Giro with much more confidence.”

Rujano outlined his race programme on Sunday, saying that after two week’s rest he will follow a four-race, multi-day programme when building towards the Giro. He will begin the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali on March 23rd, then ride the Settimana Ciclista Lombardia, the Giro di Trentino and the Giro del Appennino.

Importantly, following his Langkawi win, he’ll train and compete with more self-belief that he can once again leave his mark in Italy. Five years ago he was third; this time, he wants to top the podium and prove that he is indeed one of the best climbers in the sport.

“The Tour de Lankgawi victory is very important for me. It was important for my confidence, but also for my new team. I am very happy that ISD picked me for this year, after some time outside Europe. I can see that the team has done a great job for me this week. This is also a good sign for the Tour of Italy, which is the most important race for me this year.”



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