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Liguigas is betting on youth for the Tour de France overall, with improving youngsters Roman Kreuziger and Vicenzo Nibali selected to head the Italian team’s hopes.
With star rider Ivan Basso skipping the Tour to focus on the Vuelta a España later on this season, Kreuziger and Nibali will be aiming to slot into the top 10 overall.
“With Basso not going to the Tour, Kreuziger and Nibali will be our leaders in the GC. They’re both still young, but very motivated and keen to learn,” said Liquigas manager Roberto Amadio. “The white jersey might be more realistic, maybe a top 10 if things go well.”
The 24-year-old Nibali, a solid all-rounder who can climb and time trial, finished a promising 20th last year in Paris.
Even more impressive last year was Kreuziger, who won the Tour de Suisse en route to finishing 12th overall and second in the young jersey competition. Kreuziger looks to be on track for a good Tour, winning the Tour de Romandie in May and riding to third at the Swiss tour last week.
Also lining up will be Franco Pellizotti, who recently earned his first ever podium with third overall at the Giro. The curly-haired Italian would prefer to try to win a big mountain stage than focus on the overall GC, Amadio said.
The team is also hoping that oft-injured Daniele Bennati is back in top form to challenge for the sprints.
Bennati will have the help of the team in the flatter stages and then leave the door open for other riders to attack in transition stages to hunt for a stage victory.
>> Liquigas for Tour de France
Daniele Bennati (Ita)
Roman Kreuziger (Cze)
Alexandr Kuschynski (Rus)
Vicenzo Nibali (Ita)
Franco Pellizotti (Ita)
Fabio Sabatini (Ita)
Brian Vandborg (Den)
Alessandro Vanoti (Ita)
Frederik Willems (Bel)