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CORTINA d’AMPEZZO, Italy (VN) — Roman Kreuziger lost 11 minutes today and any chance to win the Giro d’Italia. Astana’s Czech captain dropped quickly on the Forcella Staulanza climb and never recovered. Afterward Kreuziger’s team manager had stiff words for him, placing blame for the collapse on his shoulders.
Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) won the stage in a sprint over Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), riders that Kreuziger hoped to drop today and in the coming five-star mountain days. When he crossed the line he was seemingly dazed, refusing any drinks or help from Astana’s masseur and needing help from a race official to keep moving.
Kreuziger raced for cover from the towering Dolomites and found shelter in Astana’s bus. When asked, he refused to speak to the press.
Giuseppe Martinelli told VeloNews, “I think he’s truly dead.”
Martinelli stood behind the bus and seemed to be reflecting on the day. He guided other cyclists to grand tour wins, including Marco Pantani, Damiano Cunego, Alberto Contador, but has failed so far with Kreuziger. The best they’ve managed was Kreuziger’s sixth-place result in the 2011 Giro.
“He needs to make a change, because up until now he hasn’t lived up to what we’d hoped for, in every sense,” Martinelli said. “This is the absolute truth. That’s it.”
Astana built the 26-year-old’s season around winning the Giro d’Italia. He’d placed ninth in the Tour de France twice and sixth in the Giro last year, so it seemed as though it was a reasonable goal.
This spring, he narrowly lost the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race to Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and raced well in the Giro del Trentino.
“We did all we could to bring him to this Giro in form. It seemed as though this Giro was suited to him,” Martinelli explained. “It’s up to him to correct something in his preparations or the way in which he races. There’s something that’s not right.”
Kreuziger started to show cracks in his armor mid-way up the 12.3-kilometer Staulanza. With 40 kilometers to race, including the Passo Giau, he lost pace to the favorites group. Liquigas continued to push a hard pace and eliminated one of its overall rivals for Basso.
Over at the Liquigas bus, the riders and staff were content. Basso nearly won the stage and eliminated a rival and former teammate in Kreuziger. Liquigas’ team manager, Roberto Amadio and sports director, Stefano Zanatta brought Kreuziger into the professional ranks in 2006. They looked over him for five years, helping him win the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse.
“Roman paid…” Amadio told VeloNews. “It’s been the first true test of the Giro d’Italia”
Kreuziger is expected to continue tomorrow, now 12:53 down in the general classification. Martinelli will want answers and perhaps a new grand tour leader for the coming year. The team has been linked to talks with another Liquigas man in Vincenzo Nibali, though Martinelli has publicly denied any ongoing negotiations.
“The team was there, but he was the one that lacked something,” Martinelli said. “He’s the only one who’s able to give an explanation to the team and everyone else who’s at his side.”