The smile on Thomas Lovkvist?s face said it all when it was announced that he was the new Giro d’Italia leader after stage four. After a difficult couple of days for Team Columbia, they were back in the pink jersey and showing just why they are one of the best teams in professional cycling.
The 25 year-old Swede was there to help Michael Rogers take the pink jersey in the finale but when the Aussie was delayed when Damiano Cunego lost his pedal, Lovkvist made sure he hung on to Di Luca, knowing he could become the new race leader.
?I?ve won other races but to be in the I pink jersey is one of the best moment so far in my career,? he said proudly.
?I?m actually a little but surprised to be pink jersey. I felt good on the climb and was well position in the final kilometre but was working for Mick and trying to keep him in a good position. Then they crashed in front of him and I avoided it and just followed the wheels. It would have been him or me, the important thing was that the team got it.?
FUTURE TOUR CONTENDER
Lovkvist began his professional with the Francaise des Jeux team in 2004. He rode well and won the Circuit Sarthe at just 20 and was groomed as a future Tour de France contender. But Madiot ran out of cash and confidence to keep him when he never quite got the results to back up the expectations. He joined Team Columbia in 2008 and got his career back on track, finishing third in Tirreno-Adriatico and second in the Tour of Germany.
This year he won the Monte Paschi Eroica race on the dirt roads in Tuscany but still hopes to develop into a major Tour contender.
?I progress every year and hopefully this the best year ever and we?ll see when I get to Rome see how far I am,? he said.
?I want to go as far as possible I?m not going to say I can win the Tour de France or the Giro d?Italia but one day I want to be on the podium and one day be a big rider.?
The difference between FDJ and Columbia? We have yellow in the jersey. No, there are some differences: we?re a multi-national team, have a great team spirit and really work together. On top of that there is the work we do to have the best material and we?re trying to make a difference with small details and have new way of thinking. It?s a more modern team.?
?We make mistakes and perhaps should have waited for Cav yesterday. But I was ready to work for Rogers today because I knew he?d help me. It?s about give and take and there?s good spirit in the team.?
Lovkvist leads Danilo Di Luca in the overall classification by just two seconds, with Rogers third at six seconds. Di Luca has predicted big time gaps at the end of the mountain top finish to Alpe di Siusi and time bonuses of 20, 12 and 8 seconds are up for grabs but Lovkvist is confident of keeping the pink jersey.
?We?re not going to give anything away. Di Luca and Garzelli are strong and there?s another uphill finish but we?ll see how my legs are. Everything is possible, I?ll try,? he said.
There are only a handful of Swedish professionals in the peloton but Swedish riders have worn the pink jersey before. Gosta Petterson win the Giro in 1971, Tommy Prim was second in 1981 and 1982, and Bernt Johansson was third in 1979.
Lovkvist looks set to continue the tradition.
|Giro d’Italia 2009 links|
2009 Giro d’Italia guide and features
2008 Giro d’Italia archive