By Andrew Hood
A year ago, Danilo Di Luca stormed through the month of April, winning the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Fleche Wallone and Amstel Gold Race that laid the foundation for his overall ProTour title.
As the Liquigas rider lines up for Saturday’s GP Miguel Indurain in Spain, Di Luca says his priorities have changed. Don’t expect to see him winning many races until May, when he’ll target the overall crown at the Giro d’Italia.
“I’ve changed my preparation this season, so I don’t expect much at Pais Vasco because I am there more for training for the Giro,” Di Luca told VeloNews. “I might try to go for a stage if there’s an opportunity because I love this race, but I am not in the same fitness I was a year ago.”
After finish fourth in last year’s Giro, Di Luca believes he can win this year’s race. As a result, he said he’s pushed his preparation “15 to 20” back in order to reach peak fitness in time for the season’s first grand tour.
So no defense of his spring classics victories? Di Luca says there’s still some unfinished business in the Ardennes.
“There are other riders who are more motivated for the classics this year than me,” Di Luca. “The one race where I really want to try is Liège. It’s a hard race, with a lot of climbing and it suits me better this year than before. I will be very motivated for that race.”
Pieri leaves LPR
Italian squad Team LPR announced Friday that cobbles specialist Dario Pieri has resigned from the team ahead of the spring classics. The big Italian has struggled with his weight in the past, though the team statement didn’t reveal the exact reasons for the riders departure.
The news comes just ahead of Paris-Roubaix, where LPR was invited as one of the wild card teams. Pieri was once one of Italy’s great classics hopes following second place finishes in the 2000 Tour of Flanders and second in the 2003 Paris-Roubaix. In 2002, he won the GP E3-Harelbeke.
Marchante ramping up
Saunier Duval’s José Ángel Gómez Marchante enters his first serious round of racing this week at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and will continue into the Ardennes classics later this month for the first time.
The rising Spanish star hopes for some good results, but his main focus this season is preparing for the Tour de France.
“After that, I´ll go home straight to my main aim this year: the Tour de France,” he said on the team’s web page. “ I´ll take part in the Dauphiné Libéré, where I hope my performance will be at least as good as last. Then, I really expect to have a good Tour de France, so that I can finally erase those bad 2005 memories, when I fell and broke my clavicle.”
Beloki makes season debut
Joseba Beloki will make his season debut in Saturday’ GP Miguel Indurain, but he admits he won’t be in any condition to win. The three-time Tour de France podium man delayed the start of his season this year to be ready for the Tour in July and perhaps a run at the Vuelta a España later this season.
Liberty Seguros will be looking to such riders as Alberto Contador, David Etxebarria and the Osa brothers to shine in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, which starts Monday in Spain’s Basque Country.
For Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, the injured Carlos Barredo – who fractured his left hand in a spill during the Three Days of De Panne – is out. Taking the start will be Allan Davis and Aaron Kemps, with Davis hoping to save his forces for a run at Ghent-Wevelgem on Wednesday.