Steven Kruijswijk returned to Italy for the first time since his painful final week of May’s Giro d’Italia in which he crashed on stage 19 and lost his pink jersey. The Dutchman suffered a fractured rib in the crash.
Kruijswijk and LottoNL-Jumbo team manager Richard Plugge spent Tuesday morning at the Bianchi Cafè & Cycles Milano with the 29-year-old explaining his fourth place finish has given him the confidence he can be a Grand Tour podium contender in the years to come.
“I have never been in a top five of Grand Tour but after last year in the Giro especially I was one of the better riders I think. I knew I could be in the top five if everything was going alright,” said Kruijswijk of his seventh place in 2015. “I felt really good from the start in Holland and I was really focused to not make the same mistake from last year when I lost a lot of time in the first week. I was always in the front and felt good the first time we were going uphill. Then I was feeling ok. After the first week I was already standing in the top ten, I could grow into the race but of course I never expected to take the pink jersey and even to extend my lead because after the time trial I was two and a half minutes [ahead]. After the rest day, I took more time again on my competitors so I never expected to be so good.”
Kruijswijk’s stage 19 crash put his overall aspirations to bed and prolonged the Dutch wait for a Grand Tour to at least this summer’s Tour de France. His 13th place on the final mountain stage to Sant’Anna di Vinadio a day later then saw Kruijswijk drop off the podium into fourth place. While he was disappointed to have lost the race and his place on the podium, Kruijswijk explained that he believed he proved himself to be the strongest rider in the race on several occasions.
“I felt really good on the last few stages on that particular stage I was following the best riders of the race, [Vincenzo] Nibali and [Esteban] Chaves, and I was in a good position but I made a mistake,” he said. “I misjudged a corner on the downhill and that’s why I crashed. Without a crash, I had a big gap on the GC behind me and I think I was really close to winning the Giro but you never know. I had confidence and still felt pretty good but after the crash it was impossible.
“I think I showed on some stages I was better than guys like Nibali, [Alejandro] Valverde… Otherwise I wouldn’t be in the pink jersey of course. In the uphill time trial I got second but [I was] in front of all the guys so I showed I was one of the stronger guys in the race. Over the years, I really had to grow to the level I am now. I had some injuries a few years ago and to get myself in this position in the team, I have to have confidence. I am a little bit later maybe in age to come to this result but now I have trust and confidence [that] in the future I can play a role.”
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com