Despite notching back-to-back top-10s at the past two editions of the Tour de France, Roman Kreuziger has set his sights on a run at the overall at the Giro d’Italia in 2011.
Rather than return to the Tour and try to improve on his two ninth places, the all-rounder will try to win a very mountainous Giro that’s on tap next season instead.
“Other years (my goal) was the Tour de France because it is the biggest race in the world, but for next year, the goals have changed and my first objective will be the Giro d’Italia,” Kreuziger said Sunday. “From now until the Giro, I only have this race in mind.”
The 24-year-old Czech rider has made the switch from Liquigas, his home for five seasons, to Astana, where he is the most important arrival following the departure of Tour winner Alberto Contador.
The former junior world champion made steady progress after turning pro with Liquigas in 2006, with his career highlights including a stage and the overall at the 2008 Tour de Suisse, which he followed up with stage victories and overall titles at the 2009 Tour de Romandie and the 2010 Giro di Sardinia, respectively.
Many tap Kreuziger as a future Tour de France winner, but he could see that he would be the odd-man out at Liquigas, with Italians Ivan Basso and Vicenzo Nibali ahead of him on the power rankings of the Italian-backed team.
“After five years with the same team (Liquigas), I got to the point where I feel ready to become a leader,” he continued.
When Contador left behind his troubled tenure at Astana in favor of a move to join Bjarne Riis at Saxo Bank-Sungard, Astana needed a big name with future potential to try to fill the void. Although Alexander Vinokourov will race for at least one more season, the team wanted someone who could be a factor both in the present and future.
They found that rider in Kreuziger, a son of a former pro who can climb and time trial well, with room for improvement.
Kreuziger made his Tour debut in 2008 with a solid 13th overall, which he confirmed with ninth in 2009 and ninth again in 2010. He’s also performed well over the past three seasons in other stage races, claiming second overall at the 2008 Romandie, third at the 2009 Tour de Suisse and third at the 2010 Paris-Nice.
He’s also capable of doing well in one-day classics, with such promising results as second at the 2009 Clásica San Sebastián behind Carlos Barredo and fifth at the 2010 Amstel Gold Race.
Rather than ride in the shadow of Basso and Nibali at Liquigas, he’ll now take them head on, especially Vuelta a España champ Nibali, who’s also targeting the Giro as his main goal for the 2011 season.
“The goals are very high because the team is keen for the Giro and they’ve asked me to win it,” Kreuziger said. “I’ll give my best to win, even though it will be difficult, but I am confident I can handle it well.”
Depending on what happens at the Giro, Kreuziger could find himself back at the Tour next season. He’s raced two grand tours in the same season the past two years and will likely race either the Tour or Vuelta following his Giro run.
Kreuziger and his new Astana teammates wrapped up its first training camp in Italy. They’re set to meet again for a longer camp in January along Spain’s Mediterranean Coast.