It was obvious Caja Rural was in, same with Cofidis and the powerful IAM Cycling, but the last spot was for taken by the African squad, the first time the continent will have a team in a Grand Tour.
In that context was impossible not to ask someone inside the Douglas Ryder team and Ciclismo Internacional called one of their most important athletes, Lithuanian Ignatas Konovalovas, a experienced one inside the young team.
The former Movistar rider was very happy because of the Wild Card: “This was great news, all the team was more then happy. It shows us that the team is going in the right direction and that we have trust from big race organisers.”
“Well, for me personally it was very big surprise that we didn’t get selected for giro, but nothing really changed for us riders. “, confessed Konovalovas, and also confirmed the good enviroment inside the squad during that period: “We still had other focuses for the season, so we were preparing for it. I was hoping for the vuelta invite, but after the giro surprise, i did not know what to expect from the vuelta organizers, but we made it.”
With the season ahead he doesn´t know if he’ll be in Spain but he can give advice: “well it looks like we want to start with half of the team from the Africa continent. We will have Pardilla and Gerdeman probably both fighting for GC, if not they are very strong to go for hard stage wins. Ciolek is another very big option for stages, maybe to try for the sprinter jersey also…”.
It seems that it won’t be easy to make the cut in MTN for the big spanish race and that´s why our guest is quiet: “Of course I would love to be selected to ride the Vuelta, it is one of the most beautiful races of the year. If i get selected, then we can speak about the goals :)”.
After the 2013 Ciolek win in San Remo the african structure keeps growing and the kind rider confirmed it: “All good, team is doing a great job, bringing Africa to the best races in Europe, so it is great. We have a strong racing programme this year, so all is perfect. “.
Lastly he speaks about the young Merhawi Kudus, a big talent who can be on top of the cycling world soon: “That guy is a rock star :). Very nice person, incredibly strong climber and a real fighter. One of the most impresive things about Merhawi, is his cadence. I think he can go up the climb with 120 rpm, he is the future of Africa :)
Pablo Martín Palermo
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