|When Rik Verbrugge (Lotto-Adecco) stated last winter he could end in the top 10 of the Giro d'Italia, most people declared he must be insane. But now, a few months later, he managed to finish 9th in the first of the Grand Tours. He had to bear the musscle pain above his right knee for a whole week to clamp on to that honour place, but "I know what I can and can't" is his reaction. "That top 10: I HAVE IT!"
"A top 5 was possible if I wouldn't have hurt my knee. Then I would even have done better than Claude Criquielion in his time. That bugs me a bit.... especially because that injury wasn't due to exhaustion. No, just a stupid accident. I hit my frame once really hard against my musscle and that was it." Rik Verbrugghe sounds disappointed, because this knee also bugged him in the last time trial where he finished 8th. "I was only able to race at 90 percent of my abilities. Those other ten of course made the difference. Even mentally, I wasn't completely there. You know you're disadvantaged, that the pain wasn't necessary. You're not very sure of yourself anymore. If I hadn't had that injury.....Ah well, IF is a big word but it doesn't get you anywhere. Still, the Giro has been very positive for me. Ninth in the overall classification, stage win and a few good placings."
The most important lesson Rik learned from this Giro is that he knows where he can go in the future. He want to come back next year with more ambition and in one or two years, he's going for the podium. Asked if he can win the Giro he replies that who talks about the podium can also be on the highest step. "But don't get me wrong here, I am talking about the Giro, not the Tour. The Giro can be won by about 5 or 6 people, while in the Tour it is just a race between the two main favorites."
Does that mean Verbrugghe is going to the Tour without ambitions for the general classification? "Basically yes. Criquielion tried to push me carefully to go for the Tour as well but I gave so much in Italy. No, I don't want to destroy myself. What I do want is a good place in the prologue and then the hunt for the yellow jersey. After a week, we'll have a look at things and see how they are...."