Kreuziger ready to lead Astana at Giro d'Italia

Czech rider hopes outsider role to his advantage

Astana rider Roman Kreuziger is ready to take on a new leadership role at the upcoming Giro d'Italia. The Czech stage race hopeful has been working towards his main 2011 season goal since last winter.

"At the Giro del Trentino, I won a stage, which was very important to me and my confidence before the Giro. Then in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, I made a beautiful place and a good effort, finishing fourth. Finally during Tour de Romandie, I worked for Alexander Vinokourov in the key stages and I found a good rhythm and good legs," he said.

Taking this week to recover before the Giro start, Kreuziger looked back on his preparation, which has never been as thorough. "I did a lot of training camps since the start of the season. In December, I went to Mallorca, in January in Calpe, in February to Etna and late March and early April to Tenerife. Also, it's been two months since I do stretching every day for 20 minutes and I didn't drink a drop of alcohol - I have been very serious."

The 24-year-old has been building towards the Giro since the end of last year. "In November we already talked about it and it was confirmed on the first training camp in early December in Montecatini, since then I'm only focused on this goal," he said. "There may be some who were worried about the lack of results earlier in the season, but everything was done with the aim to keep forces for the Giro and reach my peak form during this race."

Kreuziger, who still has everything to prove as a Grand Tour contender, feels ready for his first team leadership challenge. "I hope to win a stage and be amongst the best overall," he stated. "I have never finished on the podium of a grand tour or in the top five, but this year I'm prepared for that. I did everything I needed to do and I think I can do well."

The Czech's confidence will be put to the test by a number of high-profile overall favourites such as Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank), Michele Scarponi (Lampre), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Denis Menchov (Geox). But Kreuziger thought that his outsider status could be an advantage. "I think that the presence of favourites like them can turn in our favour because it is their team who will be responsible of the race from the start of the Giro, and that's an advantage for us," he said.

This article was originally published on Cyclingews.com.

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