The 2009 Giro d’Italia looks to be shaping up into a battle of cycling’s titans, as still more big names have announced plans to race in Italy in May .
With Lance Armstrong, Damiano Cunego and Ivan Basso already confirmed, 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre and longtime Armstrong sidekick José Luís Rubiera are both expected to start the centennial edition of the corsa rosa.
Sastre said last week that he’ll likely skip the Vuelta a España and race the Giro instead as preparation for his Tour defense.
The Spanish climber will be joining the upstart Cervélo team in 2009 and will be keen to get a major, three-week tour under his belt with an untested team before tackling the all-important Tour.
Sastre raced the Giro three times, with the 1999 Giro marking his grand tour debut with ONCE.
He raced the Italian tour again in 2002 and in 2006, each time helping his respective CSC captains ride to the podium, with Tyler Hamilton to second in 2002 and Ivan Basso to victory in 2006.
Sastre will be looking to keep his extraordinary grand tour streak alive in 2009. Through this season, Sastre has started and finished 19 grand tours, with eight Tours, three Giros and eight Vueltas. He raced all three in 2006, after having raced both the Tour and Vuelta in 2005.
Rubiera, meanwhile, will ride the Giro for a seventh time after holding off a planned retirement this season to be part of Armstrong’s much-anticipated return to racing next year.
“It really motivates me because it’s a race that I know well and I have good memories from the victories that I achieved in my first years as a pro,” Rubiera told the El Comercio newspaper. “For Armstrong, the climbs at the Giro might not be ideal for him because they’re tougher, like the climb up the Mortirolo, but I believe that if he’s decided (to race the Giro) it’s because he can take on the race with guarantees.”
Rubiera, who turns 36 in January, said his racing schedule is not yet finalized, but he’s expecting to race the Tour Down Under and the Tour of California alongside Armstrong.
In his native Asturias in northern Spain, Rubiera will receive a special tribute this week as a local climb called the Coto Bello will be renamed in his honor.