Tour of the Alps, Kufstein is ready for the grand depart

Tomorrow, April 17th, the new race taking over from Giro del Trentino starts with great expectations. In Austria, the programme has opened with the press conference of Thibaut Pinot, Rohan Dennis and Michele Scarponi, and the teams’ presentation

The Tour of the Alps has lived an intense eve in Kufstein (Austria), where the new race that unites three territories and their people in the name of sports will start. The event takes over the baton and the 40 years of prestigious tradition from the Giro del Trentino. The race symbolizes the cooperation between the Euregio territories, Tirol, Südtirol and Trentino, who join forces in a bike race that cancels the borders and any language barrier.

Kufstein has welcomed warmly the 18 teams (including 7 World Team) and the 139 riders who will light up the five stages (one more than the past) on a very tough route. The spectacular parcours (824 kilometers until the finish in Trento) and the variety of climbs (10 categorized climbs, 15600 mt overall altitude) have always been a distinguishing feature of the race. Once again, the Tour of the Alps will be a key dress rehearsal for the Giro d’Italia, a truly significant test to measure the ambitions for the Corsa Rosa.

In the afternoon, the top riders have taken the stage. Attending the classic press conference in the Kufstein University were French Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Australian Rohan Dennis (BMC), both on their debut in the race before their first assault to the Giro d’Italia, and Michele Scarponi (Astana), who already won both Giro del Trentino and Giro d’Italia, and who will once again take his team’s leader ranks after Fabio Aru’s forfeit due to injury.

Then, the public showed all of its enthusiasm to the 18 teams during their parade inside the Kufstein Univerity: even the rain could not hamper the Kufstein’s party, that also featured a very peculiar guest. Didi, the “devil” who became famous for his unmistakable runs in the wake of the Tour de France riders, ha salso arrived in Austria to see the first act of the new Tour of the Alps’ story: Kufstein had never seen an Easter day like this.

The top riders’ quotes

THIBAUT PINOT

This is the first time I take part in this race, and the second race in Italy in the row for me, since I haven’t been racing since Tirreno-Adriatico. My main goal is to find good feelings to star the Giro d’Italia with ambition.

I think the choice of the Tour of the Alps to move cross border is a very important and meaningful one. What I like about this race is that it’s one of the few purely dedicated to climbers. I hope the weather will assist us, as I believe this is set to be a beautiful and exciting race.

I am coming off a training camp in Spain, and I can count of a strong team, even though we don’t have our top climbing team. I hope to win a stage, and then to see what I can do in the GC.

ROHAN DENNIS

I came here without too much ambitions for the GC, a little less pressure. If the legs are there, then I am.

I know Cadel Evans has been the only Australian to win this race, in a BMC jersey. To follow his footsteps is a huge honour, but I’m a different rider, I’m a TT specialist and the Tour of the Alps is going to be a little bit of a challenge for me. With no time trials, I won’t have any bonus. It’s a test for what I need to be a GC rider in the future

MICHELE SCARPONI

We had to change our plans after Aru’s injury during a traning in Sierra Nevada, so now I’m here speaking about what we have to do at the Tour of the Alps and the Giro d’Italia. The answer is: we’ll try to do our best, because we worked a lot to achieve good results here and at the Giro.

The riders who aim high at Giro come to race here. I think no one wants to lose, even if everyone says to be here for testing. The third stage with the  Passo delle Erbe, is probably the most demanding of them all, but also the last fraction will be tough. There are no easy stages, indeed. In addition, the weather doesn’t look so good and it could play a key role in the race’s outcome.

THE RACE FAVORITES

 Pinot: “I can’t say yet. Astana, BMC, Sky are big teams and I am expecting for a big challenge and a big winner”

Dennis “I think there are not individual favorites, but a lot of strong riders here”

Scarponi “Thibaut Pinot”

Pinot: “I don’t know, I’m feeling well, the course suites to my skills and the main goal will be to find a good shape for the Giro d’Italia”

MIKEL LANDA

This is a race I like so much, and I always race to win, so my hope is to repeat the feat if last year. My conditions are good, though I am coming off some weeks without racing after the Tour of Catalunya. I only happened to race in Austria once in my career, it was at last year’s Giro del Trentino in Anras, and I won. So I hope I can extend the stretch.

Tomorrow the first stage will take the riders from Kufstein to Innsbruck through 142,3 km. The start will be given at 12, the finish is expected at about 15.30. Live broadcast on Eurosport, Bike Channel UK, Raisport, L’Equipe, TV2, Econet, Eleven Sports, Cycling TV and on Facebook on the PMG Sport page from 14.30 to 16.