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91st Giro d’Italia – Caisse d’Epargne Team Preview
By Staff
Date: 5/6/2008
91st Giro d’Italia – Caisse d’Epargne Team Preview

Giro d’Italia – Caisse d’Epargne Team Preview
Biggest ship in the Spanish Armada, Team director's José-Miguel Echevarri & Eusebio Unzue are bringing a boat load of talent to the corsa rosa that could surprise.

By Barry Ryan

The Giro d’Italia is never going to top the list of priorities for a Spanish team with a French sponsor, but nonetheless, Caisse d’Epargne will line up in Palermo on Saturday with a team not lacking in experience in the corsa rosa.

No fewer than three of their number have finished in the top ten of the Giro, and José Rujano, Vladimir Karpets and the ever-reliable David Arroyo will be supported by two past Giro stage winners in Joan Horrach and Pablo Lastras.

Caisse d’Epargne for the 2008 Giro d'Italia
David Arroyo (Spa)
Joan Horrach (Spa)
Vladimir Karpets (Rus)
Pablo Lastras (Spa)
Luis Pasamontes (Spa)
Francisco Pérez (Spa)
Marlon Perez (Col)
Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa)
José Rujano (Ven)

José Rujano
Rujano’s progress, in particular, will be viewed with considerable interest. After all, it was in this very race in 2005 that the diminutive Venezuelan, then riding for Selle Italia, exploded onto the international scene with a swashbuckling display of climbing reminiscent of a young Marco Pantani. His efforts brought him an epic stage win at Sestieres, the mountains classification and third place in Milan, but the man from Santa Cruz de Mora has singularly failed to live up to expectations since.

At the 2006 Giro, after an unsuccessful attack on the Colle Sancarlo on Stage 13, he absurdly abandoned the race on the descent, a mere 3km from the finish line at La Thuile, in spite of the fact that he was set for a top ten finish in the stage. Since then, Rujano has barely registered. His midseason transfer to Quickstep after that Giro farce was unsuccessful, while 2007 in the Unibet colours yielded only one victory, the less than awe-inspiring Venezuelan time trial championship.

Rujano can thus consider himself somewhat fortunate to have landed a place with Caisse d’Epargne for 2008, and this Giro is surely something of a Last Chance Saloon, at least at cycling’s top table, even if he is still only 26 years old. His exploits on the unmade roads of the Finestre are now three years old, and neither the quantity nor the quality of his victories since have managed to dispel the feeling that 2005 was just a flash in the pan. He arrives at the Giro with much to prove, and with the mammoth climbs of, among others, the Marmolada, the Gavia and the Mortirolo on offer, Rujano has ample platform upon which to reanimate his career.

Failing that, Caisse d’Epargne can rely on 26 year old Russia’s Vladimir Karpets to be a consistent performer over the three weeks. (Vladimir's will be 27 on September 20th.) The former winner of the white jersey at the Tour de France enjoyed a purple patch in the early summer last year, culminating in overall victory at the Tour of Switzerland, and his team will no doubt be hoping that he can repeat that kind of form on Italian roads this year. His 7th place overall in the 2005 Giro at 24 years of age, remains the high water mark of a major tours career that has perhaps promised a little more than it has delivered in recent years, then again, some would say he is approaching his prime and this might be his year to grasp the opportunity. Karpets will be looking with particular relish at the Pesaro-Urbino time trial on stage 10 as a chance to make his mark on this year’s race.

David Arroyo, 10th last year, will be another vital cog in the Caisse d’Epargne machine. The consistent climber counts just two victories to his name, and is unlikely to be seen accelerating off the front too often, but expect to see him in and around the lead group on the mountain stages.

Meanwhile, Spanish Joaquim Rodriguez will be given free rein to chase stage victories at the race. This year he has already outfought Danilo Di Luca to snare a fine victory on the climb to Montelupone in Tirreno-Adriatico, and followed that up with a hat-trick of 8th place finishes in the Ardennes classics, including a very impressive ride in defense of Alejandro Valverde’s interests at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Lastras and Horrach will be looking for any available opportunity to repeat their Giro stage victories of 2001 and 2006 respectively.

Another interesting element of the line-up is the inclusion of Colombian Marlon Perez, a Junior World Champion in the points race all the way back in 1994 whose professional career has been spent mainly on South American roads, although he does boast a 40th place finish from the 2004 Giro.

Climbers Francisco Pérez and Luis Pasamontes complete a roster that may well be more competitive than one may have anticipated at this Giro, regardless of the form of José Rujano.

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