Astana puts everything behind Kreuziger in Giro d’Italia
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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Astana puts everything behind Kreuziger in Giro d’Italia

by Shane Stokes at 5:09 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 
Czech rider to be given full leadership

Roman KreuzigerAfter Alexandre Vinokourov’s sixth overall and spell in the Maglia Rosa last year, the Astana team is heading back to the race with a different leader and higher objectives. Czech rider Roman Kreuziger will get his chance to lead a Grand Tour team, being the Kazakh team’s designated captain for the three week event.

Set to celebrate his 25th birthday on Friday, Kreuziger previously won the Tour de Suisse and twice finished ninth overall in the Tour de France. He showed his increasing form lately when he finished fourth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and team manager Giuseppe Martinelli believes he’s ready for a big performance.

“We have a big responsibility for this race, because we aim for the general classification with our leader Roman Kreuziger,” he said. “Here, our primary goal is the podium. Roman is a young leader, but I really trust him. I know he is well prepared and is in good condition.”

A solid team has been set up around him, with the climbers Josep Jufre, Robert Kiserlovski, Francesco Masciarelli, Evgeny Petrov and Paolo Tiralongo ready to put their weight behind him in the mountains, and Alexandr Dyachenko, Maxim Gourov and Gorazd Stangelj ready to do the same on flatter and undulating terrain.

Martinelli has confidence in the group strength, and actually lists the team classification as a second goal for the team. “We have a strong group, with riders who can claim good results for the general. These are all the riders who were in the Giro del Trentino 2011 [where they took the team classification], plus the Kazakh Alexandr Dyachenko, who is coming from Tour of Turkey.”

The latter was not originally scheduled to ride, but replaces Fredrik Kessiakoff because of the strong form he showed in Turkey. “He is currently in very good condition and last year at the Vuelta, he showed us he could fit well in the climbs.”

Kiserlovski is another who wasn’t originally envisaged as part of the team. He had a dramatic crash in Paris-Nice, falling on the rain-washed seventh stage and ending up under a parked truck. He recently pulled out of the Tour de Romandie with a suspected cracked vertebra dating back to that crash. However that injury has subsequently been downgraded after a MRI was carried out.

“The team doctor Andrea Andreazzoli showed that MRI to a specialist who told us that it is not actually a crack, but a big bruise,” said Martinelli. “Robert took advantage of last week to rest. He had one thing in mind: to be in shape for the Giro. He took this decision alone to participate in the Giro, nobody has put any pressure on him and there is no medical contraindication.”

Vinokourov will lead the team in what is likely to be his final Tour de France, and will require Kreuziger’s backing there. The Giro is the Czech rider’s big chance to chase a top three placing in a Grand Tour, and he has been working hard to ensure he’s in the best shape possible.

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