Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) jumped from fifth to third overall in the Vuelta a España, but says that if he is to win, he will have to surprise his rivals in the five days to come.
The Dutchman has yet to reach the podium in a Grand Tour, but victory is on his mind. He is looking for a way to upset the better climbers, including race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
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“It’s hard to say [what will happen in the coming mountains] because you saw this last weekend that the gaps are very close,” Kruijswijk said.
“I think it’s about making sure you don’t have a bad day and then maybe try to surprise the other guys the next weekend to come.”
The Vuelta climbs through the Basque Country on stage 17 and on Friday and Saturday, through Andorra. It ends with an expected sprint finish in Madrid, where Chris Froome won the overall in 2017.
Yates leads by 33 seconds over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and 52 seconds over Kruijswijk. Valverde’s Movistar team-mate Nairo Quintana fell from third to fourth at 1-15 minutes and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) went to sixth at 1-34.
Kruijswijk, who crashed out of the pink jersey in the 2016 Giro d’Italia, made a big leap head towards another Grand T our title on Tuesday. He beat eventual stage winner Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) at the first time check and finished with enough time to leapfrog his rivals.
“I was hoping for a good time trial and the first part was really good but I felt that I started a little bit too fast when I saw that first intermediate time and from that point it was more about not winning the time trial, which was aiming too high, but defending my GC position and perhaps getting some places,” he continued.
“I think when you see this result you can be happy with it there but there are still hard days to come and until now the other guys have been a little bit better. This time to help me put time back and hopefully I can keep doing the same in the next days.”
Kruijswijk fell into a snow bank on the Agnello pass in the 2016 Giro and opened the door for Vincenzo Nibali to win the overall two days later. He arrived to the Vuelta after placing fifth in the Tour de France.