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92nd Giro d'Italia - Cervélo TestTeam Preview
By Staff
Date: 5/5/2009
92nd Giro d'Italia - Cervélo TestTeam Preview

The 92nd Giro d'Italia  - Cervélo Test Team Preview
The Swiss registered team are targeting the General Classification in the centenary edition of the Giro d'Italia with Carlos Sastre having the full support of the team at his disposal.

By Giles Belbin

It has been a fantastic season so far for the new Cervélo Test Team. Impressive results early on in the season have been followed up with strong rides in the spring classics with Cervélo Test Team riders placing in the top ten in all six of the major one-day races held throughout April. Such consistent riding has the team currently boasting the top ranked rider in the UCI World Rankings in Heinrich Haussler, as well as being currently ranked 5th in the team classification.

Carlos Sastre   Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti  

Now though the focus of the team shifts to the middle part of the season and the upcoming Giro d'Italia, with the team determined to continue the great work so far achieved by targeting the overall classification with their leader Carlos Sastre. Their Sports Director, Jean-Paul van Poppel, confirms as much, saying, “We are going for a top result in the GC (General Classification) with the leader and Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, he will get support from the entire team to reach a top three place in the GC.”

Cervélo Test Team for the 92nd Giro d'Italia
Philip Deignan (Ireland)
Simon Gerrans (Australia)
Volodymir Gustov (Ukraine)
Jeremy Hunt (Great Britain)
Ted King (USA)
Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania)
Serge Pauwels (Belgium)
Daniel Lloyd (Great Britain)
Carlos Sastre (Spain)

Sports Directors
Jean-Paul van Poppel (Netherlands)
Jens Zemke (Germany)
Marcello Albasini (Switzerland)

Carlos Sastre
The 34 year old Spaniard needs little introduction. A perennial Grand Tour contender, Sastre has consistently placed well in the three week long races that he targets for success. Generally these have been the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, and of course last year he followed up victory in the former with third place in the Vuelta. However 2009 is different for Cervélo's team leader, who now has the Giro firmly on his list of targets.

His best placing in the Giro are currently 38th in 2002 and 46th in 2006, when he also claimed a stage. Not the normal past history of a contender perhaps, but tellingly, these results are due more to Sastre's focus on the Tour and the Vuelta and having to ride for team mates (in 2006 Ivan Basso was Sastre's leader at the Giro), than any unsuitability to this race, despite the Giro being very different to the other Grand Tours on the calendar. History has shown that when Sastre is focused on placing well in a GT he usually does so, and having the whole team at his disposal will naturally help him.

There are six mountain top finishes this year which would normally play into the hands of Sastre, but time will tell as to whether May, when the air still has a chilly edge and the riders can often be climbing up into the snow fields, is a little too early for the Spaniard to dominate in his natural territory of the mountains. In addition, despite his heroic performance in the final Time Trial of last year's Tour, where he managed to limit his losses and seal victory, Sastre is not a natural in the race against the clock and so he will be disappointed that this year's Giro has over 95 kilometres of time trialing. Sastre will probably lose too much time in the Time Trials to claim overall victory but a top five placing is on the cards and will represent a great start to the Grand Tour season for the team.

Simon Gerrans, Philip Deignan
As well as targeting the GC with Sastre, Cervélo will also be going for stage victories, with van Poppel saying, “another target is a stage win during the 100 anniversary edition of the Giro. With Simon Gerrans, who won a stage last year in the Tour de France and who has shown great performances this spring, the team has a good candidate to win a stage, though we also have Philip Deignan.”

Simon Gerrans celebrating his stage 15 win in 2008 on the podium
Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti  

Simon Gerrans has had a fantastic spring classics season, placing in the top ten at Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège - Bastogne - Liège. His victory in the tough fifteenth stage of last year's Tour, to Prato Nevoso is testimony to the Australian's ability to win stages at the very highest level in the sport and it is an experience that will of course stand him in good stead for the Giro. An experienced GT rider, it should be no surprise if the 28 year old manages to grab a stage victory in this year's Giro to add to his palmares.

Three year pro, Philip Deignan, has clearly caught the eye of his Director as a potential stage winner. The 25 year old from Ireland has shown stage winning potential in his fledgling career with top ten placings in stages of the Vuelta, the Tour of Germany and the Tour de l'Avenir. This year Deignan's best results have come in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, where he placed 7th overall and 5th in Stage Four and he has also ridden in three tough classics. All confidence boosting stuff, but 2009 is probably still a little early for Deignan to yet be considered as anything other than an outside bet for a stage victory at this, the highest level.

Volodymir Gustov
Jeremy Hunt
Ted King
Ignatas Konovalovas
Serge Pauwels

32 year old Volodymir Gustov packs a wealth of experience with him. A professional since 2000, Gustov came to Cervélo from CSC with Sastre. He was with Sastre last year during both the Tour and the Vuelta and so will be familiar with the demands of working for the Spaniard during a rigorous three week race. By far the most experienced of Sastre's team mates, Gustov is a consistent rider who has competed in all three Grand Tours. He knows what it takes to go deep in the third week of a GT and is sure to be relied heavily upon by the team to bring them the benefit of that experience. He is sure to prove to be an invaluable team mate for Cervélo's team leader.

British rider Jeremy Hunt, a professional since 1996, will be another of Sastre's experienced team mates. Hunt has enjoyed a great spring with top twenty placings in both Gent - Wevelgem and Paris - Roubaix, demonstrating he knows how to ride hard on the flat, something that Sastre will appreciate the importance of in the transitions between climbs, particularly considering CSCs incredible displays doing just that in last year's Tour. Victories in the GP Plouay and the GP Marseilles feature as Hunt's most notable results.

Ted King and Serge Pauwels are both riders who come to the fore when the road tilts up and so will be the men to escort Sastre into the mountains. Both riders have won King of the Mountain titles, albeit in less celebrated races than the Giro (King won KoM in 2008 Tour de Georgia whilst Pauwels won the same competition in the 2007 Tour Down Under). Nevertheless it takes climbing talent to win any KoM classification and Sastre will need their support in at least the early parts of the Giro's mountain stages, ensuring he can reach the bottom of the final climb of the day feeling as fresh as possible. This will be both riders' first Grand Tour and so it remains to be seen just how they will cope with the unique demands racing at this level for three weeks places on them, although van Poppel clearly has faith in their abilities to protect the team's leader in the crucial battleground of the mountains.

The second British rider on the team, Daniel Lloyd will be making his Grand Tour debut. Lloyd was originally named as the team's reserve but was called up on Tuesday when New Zealander Hayden Roulston was forced to withdraw because of an ankle injury. The 28 year old enjoyed a fantastic early classics campaign, with an impressive showing in the Tour of Flanders being of particular note, before being struck by an illness that scuppered planned rides in the Ardennes classics. Lloyd is another rider who likes hilly terrain and so the Giro parcours should suit him and, along with King and Pauwels, he will look to be beside his team leader in the mountains.

Completing the team is 23 year old Ignatas Konovalovas, the current national time trial champion of Lithuania. A second year pro, Konovalovas impressed in his debut season taking victory in a stage of the Tour of Luxembourg and this year won the Giro del Mendrisiotto in March. This will be his first ride in a Grand Tour and will mainly be there for the experience although, should the opportunity to present itself in any one stage, as he has already proven, he knows how to win.

The main question for the Cervélo Test Team is whether it is strong enough to guide Sastre to the podium. Naturally Sastre has all the pedigree needed to place well in this race but you can't escape the feeling he will have to rely on himself a little more than he did in last year's Tour when he enjoyed the support of an incredibly strong team. There are no Schleck's or Voigt's or Cancellara's in Cervélo's ranks and Sastre will know he owed a large part of his Yellow Jersey in France to those guys - the job the Schleck's did on Cadel Evans on Alpe d'Huez and the sight of Cancellara driving the peloton last summer will last long in the memory. That said, Sastre has high placings under his belt when he has not enjoyed such support and this team is packed full of potential. A top five finish should be within his reach.

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