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Italians hoping for home win at Giro d’Italia over stiff foreign challenge

ROME, Italy (AFP) – Roman Kreuziger (Astana), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) spearhead a foreign legion hoping to end Italian hopes of scoring another home win in the Giro d’Italia, which begins Saturday in Herning, Denmark.

In 66 of the 94 previous editions Italians have claimed the race’s coveted pink jersey – and a bevy of strong Italian riders are hoping this year will be no different.

Italians Michele Scarponi and Damiano Cunego, both on Lampre-ISD, and Ivan Basso (Liquigas) have all been crowned Giro champions before, and will be looking to stay in contention throughout the 21-stage epic which, although including three time trials, should have the climbing specialists licking their lips.

The 95th edition has been billed as wide open; with no clear favorite, they are likely to be pushed all the way.

Kreuziger, a 25-year-old Czech, has decided to skip the Tour de France this year to concentrate on trying to win one of the other two Grand Tours. An all-rounder with good time-trialing and climbing abilities, he finished fifth last year adding to his two consecutive top-ten places at the Tour de France in the two previous years.

“I’ve stepped up every year since 2008. I haven’t won a grand tour but I’m confident that I’m progressing,” said Kreuziger, who also finished sixth overall at the Tour de Romandie Sunday.

“My season is going well. I had a good Tirreno-Adriatico, Giro del Trentino and Tour de Romandie. We’ll see if it’s my year.”

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