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Mini but mighty, Kenny Elissonde takes a jersey home from Oman

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published Feb. 16, 2013
Kenny Elissonde took the best young rider title in Oman, and he'd like to win on the Gavia come the Giro d'Italia. Photo: Gregor Brown

MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — Team FDJ celebrated on Saturday in the Tour of Oman. Not only did pint-size climber Kenny Elissonde wrap up the best young rider classification, but French champion Nacer Bouhanni sprinted to take the final stage along the corniche.

Chris Froome (Sky) finished with the pack to take his first stage-race win. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) placed second at 27 seconds with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) third at 39 seconds.

They stood on the final podium along Muscat’s corniche with the diminutive Elissonde, whose white jersey flapped in the wind.

Early in the race, some wondered whether FDJ had brought its junior team. Elissonde has the build of Joe Dombrowski, but stands about two feet shorter and weighs only 115 pounds (52kg).

But Elissonde received his due respect when he placed sixth on Green Mountain Thursday in the company of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff).

“I like steep climbs, long hills,” he told VeloNews. “It’s not so easy for me when the stages are flat. I need to improve on those types of stages.”

Elissonde will head home to Paris Saturday with his jersey and khanjar knife. He lives about 20 miles out of the city center, near teammate Yoann Offredo.

“My girlfriend lives right in the center,” he said. “When I can, I’m out with her for a coffee or something. I love the city! In the center, though, it’s impossible to ride.”

The second-year professional maintains a busy schedule this season and has little time for the Tuileries Garden. FDJ selected him to ride the Giro d’Italia, his first grand tour, in support of Arnold Jeannesson.

“I will race for the stages; the GC would be too stressful in my first grand tour. Three weeks of racing will be hard for me, but Arnold Jeannesson has experience and will help,” Elissonde said.

“I’ve got to improve my time trialing. In my last year as an elite cyclist, I won a time trial, but in the pros it’s impossible. [Bradley] Wiggins and the others are so powerful, for me it’s important just not to lose a lot of time.”

Elissonde eyes the high-mountains where he can take advantage of his size. If he gets there, he would love to have his chance on the Gavia, the race’s only stage in France.

“For sure, nothing’s impossible if you believe in it,” Elissonde said. “I’m a pure climber and the Gavia is a perfect climb for a climber. If I haven’t lost too much energy by then and I’m in a good breakaway, then why not?”

 

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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