|Interview courtesy of www.phonak-cycling.ch
With Phonak's more recognizable leader, Tyler Hamilton, hanging fire in preparation for Le Tour, Slovenian National Champion Tadej Valjavec is taking the reigns and looking for success in the Giro d'Italia. The Slovenian master, 27, recently gave a taste of his abilities in the Tour de Romandie, coming in fourth in the overall ratings. Valjavec made a name for himself last year when he came third in the Trentino tour and fifth overall in the Tour de Suisse.
What are your personal goals as captain of your hand-picked team in the legendary Italian race?
I will be attempting to achieve a stage victory and am aiming to be in the top ten in the overall ratings. Alexandre Moos will provide effective and helpful support in the mountains. Thanks to his presence, better tactics should be possible. Our sprinters Alexandre Usov, Daniele Bennati and Uros Morn add the team more arrows to its quiver. Daniel Schnider in particular ought to support our work as a strong team helper.
You were at the front on the arrival at the mountains in Morgins and in the difficult Sion-Sion stage of the Tour de Romandie. Realising this must have boosted your self-confidence tremendously?
Absolutely. I am very pleased with my performance on the Tour de Romandie. It confirms my feeling that I can make up lost time above all in the last week of the Giro.
Valjavec at the tour of Romandie
Photo courtesy www.phonak-cycling.ch
Are you satisfied with your last season?
Things went really well for me in the first stage from Paris to Nice. A cold and a virus then practically took me out of action for a month. Things only started going noticeably uphill in the last two stages of the Catalonian week.
How do you feel in the Phonak team?
Excellent. I couldn't have wished for a better team. Friendship and comradeship are writ large here as an absolute prerequisite for first-class performance.
Who are your favourites in the Giro?
If I'm not very much mistaken, it will turn out to be a three-way fight between Gilberto Simoni, Paolo Savoldelli and Stefano Garzelli. Simoni is already assured two triumphs. But the other Italians in the race are also very strong on their home ground and dangerous. My last really big success is two years back when, five years into my professional career, I swung the Bergamasque tour to my advantage. I consider myself a very good all-rounder with special climbing points.
There are bound to be all manner of topographical difficulties.
You can say that again. The first three stages are difficult enough and the third ends with a mountain arrival. After three sprint days, we head upward again. A few downhill sections come after that before the first rest day. The 13th section, a 52-kilometre time trial ought to be a big turning point. Four mountain sections in the third week will then decide everything down to the last detail. Because not too many top names are appearing in the tour, I give the team an excellent chance. We will certainly benefit from the great experience of our two sporting directors Jacques Michaud and René Savary here.
Tadej Valjavec Profile:
Date of birth: 14.03.1977
Professional Since: 2000
Height: 171 cm
Weight: 59 kg
Strengths: Mountains, stage race specialist
2002 - Overall ranking Settimana Ciclista Lombardia - 1st
2002 - Overall ranking Tour de Suisse - 10th
2003 - Slovenian National Champion
2003 - Overall ranking Giro del Trentino - 3rd
2003 - Overall ranking Tour de Suisse - 5th
2004 - 4th stage Tour de Romandie - 3rd
Phonak Hearing Systems for the Giro
Michael Albasini (Swi)
Niki Aebersold (Swi)
Daniele Bennati (Ita)
Marco Fertonani (Ita)
Alexandre Moos (Swi)
Uros Murn (Slo)
Daniel Schnider (Swi)
Alexandre Usov (Blr)
Tadej Valjavec (Slo)