Thomas Löfkvist is building towards his chance to lead Great Britain's Sky team at the Giro d'Italia in May. This week, he leads the team at the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race.
"He is really motivated," said sports director, Marcus Ljungqvist. "He has more days coming up, plus a time trial that suits him."
Löfkvist trails race leader Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) by 27 seconds after five of seven stages. A mountain stage remains today (Monday) and a time trial tomorrow (Tuesday).
The 26-year-old Swede could stand to win another stage race to be ready to lead Sky's team at the Giro d'Italia, May 7 to 29. He has not won a race's general classification since the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2004.
"Yes, true! It's been a while," continued Ljungqvist. "I won't say he needs to win it [Tirreno-Adriatico] to be confident enough, but for sure, it would help. Personally, to see he can win a race like this, that would be great."
The Giro starts in Turin with a team time trial and ends with an individual time trial in Milan. It features seven stages with mountaintop finishes, including Mount Etna in the south and Monte Zoncolan in the north.
Gösta Pettersson is the first and only Swede to win Giro d'Italia. He took the overall leader's pink jersey and defended for three days to win forty years ago, in 1971. Löfkvist became the third Swede wear the pink jersey in 2009. He won it after the fourth stage, the mountaintop finish at San Martino di Castrozza, and kept it for one day.
"He's older and more experienced now," said Ljungqvist, making a comparison to last year. "He hasn't changed a lot. He's very serious about his training, he has done a lot of strength training in the winter.
The two Swedes have known each other since Löfkvist became a professional cyclist.
"He's very motivated for [to lead at the Giro], of course. Now, though, we are only thinking of Tirreno-Adriatico."
Löfkvist rode to 17th overall at the Tour de France last year, his best place yet in a Grand Tour. In December, Sky's team principal, David Brailsford said that Löfkvist is planning to ride both the Giro and the Tour.
"He is still very keen to race the Tour de France," Brailsford said. "It will have to be monitored, in terms of the severity and how fresh he comes out of the Giro."
Tirreno-Adriatico 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
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