FOLIGNO, Italy (VN) — Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, fourth overall in the 2016 Giro d’Italia, is trying to shake off the disappointment of unexpected bad form. His LottoNL-Jumbo team says, however, it “is going to be difficult” if his level does not improve.
Kruijswijk sits 10th overall, 5:19 behind race leader and fellow Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). He suffered a big blow on the Blockhaus climb two days ago when he lost 2:43 to Nairo Quintana (Movistar). He maintained his overall spot Tuesday in the time trial, one day after a rest day, but still lacks that feeling that he had all spring and coming into the Giro d’Italia.
“We don’t change our strategy, it would be a very bad signal to the team and to Steven to start to focus on other things,” sport director Addy Engels told VeloNews.
“We will continue the way we began and make sure he can improve just that small bit so that he can push those numbers in the last week. Hopefully by Saturday’s Oropa summit finish, a flat stage with an explosive final climb, Steven can have a good feeling again.
“If there is a small time loss or not, it’s important that he has a good feeling. And from the last rest day, from Bergamo, that he is able to do what he is able to do. The race is still on at that point. But of course, he needs to improve because if he stays on this level it’s going to be very difficult, that’s honest.”
Kruijswijk came into the Giro d’Italia last year to win and took the pink jersey with three minutes. He appeared in control, but overshot a corner atop the Colle dell’Agnello and crashed into a snow bank. He lost the lead and suffering from injuries, slipped to fourth overall on the final mountain stage the next day.
The Dutch team in yellow and black beefed up its squad by adding Stef Clement and Jurgen Van den Broeck. It began this year’s Giro with the intention to win even faced with riders like Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), and Dumoulin.
“It was a big disappointment for myself. I hoped and expected more,” Kruijswijk said. ”
“I don’t know why it is this way. I did the same prep as last year, I felt good in the training camp in Tenerife, I had the same numbers and everything seemed to show I was going in the right way. I don’t have an answer.”
The red-headed cyclist with fair skin recognized the “differences are bigger than he expected” at this point in the race. The only thing Engels can think may be the problem was his crash in the Tour of Yorkshire beforehand or perhaps his crash in the Giro’s Mount Etna stage.
“No of course, not all is lost,” Kruijswijk said. “I hope to say in two weeks in Milan that ‘I just had a bad day in the Giro’ and that I can re-find my form and do what I’m capable of. There’s still a lot to come in the last weeks. If I can show the level I had last year then I can still gain a lot of places.”
He now has much ground to gain on experienced grand tour cyclists to make a podium spot in Milan. Pushed today if he would switch gears and simply go for stage wins, he held his ground. He said, “I’m not going to change tactics yet.”