Cervere, Italy (VN) — Damiano Caruso has his sights set on helping Liquigas-Cannondale teammate Ivan Basso win the pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia. In the process, he hopes he can hold onto the white jersey of best young rider.
Team Sky’s Colombians Rigoberto Urán and Sergio Henao are breathing down his neck at eight and 25 seconds back, respectively. Then there’s Peter Stetina, who thanks to Garmin-Barracuda’s time trial and a strong run through the mountains last weekend, sits at one minute and one second back.
“The priority is with Ivan; if I’m able to do both well at the same time, then great,” Caruso told VeloNews this morning in Savona. “However, I have to think of him first.”
The salty sea filled the air around the team Liquigas bus. Basso and others joked around while Caruso had a moment to think of home. In Ragusa, Sicily, his girlfriend Ornella and his friends, when they aren’t fishing, watch the Giro d’Italia.
Caruso moved back to Sicily recently after spending several years in Tuscany. Like Vincenzo Nibali, also from Sicily, or Taylor Phinney, many cyclists move to the region to learn the trade.
“I returned to Sicily after a few years to live with Ornella. It’s better there for us,” Caruso said. “There’s only an extra connection for flights, but I live well there. I have her, my friends, and I’m able to fish the sea.”
The action will be 2000 meters above sea level tomorrow and in the coming week. The Giro d’Italia races through the Alps, mountains new to Caruso. Prior to the Giro, he’d only raced one Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España.
However, he has trained with Liquigas in San Pellegrino in the Alps and made visits to ride the Mortirolo and the Stelvio – land at the other end of Italy’s boot.
“I’ve never raced some of these mountains coming up, but I know them from our training camps,” Caruso said.
“Those are long and hard climbs, and to face them in the third week, they become even harder. I’d say, the Stelvio is my favorite climb; it’s the one that goes higher than the rest and has its place in cycling history.”
Stetina’s role is to ride for Ryder Hesjedal, but he’ll have a shot for the white jersey. Urán and Henao will have more freedom to race for the classification with fewer sprint stages for Mark Cavendish.
“I already know Pete; I’ve had my chances to race against him. I know he’s a respected rider and strong in the mountains, like Urán and Henao. They are true rivals, it will be hard to defend myself from,” Caruso continued.
“After 13 stages, the white jersey is a great pleasure to have. It’s payment for a lot of sacrifices I’ve made. I’ll do my best for Ivan, then we’ll see if I can pull off a win of my own in Milan.”