Tanel Kangert’s ride at Giro is so impressive that at Vuelta, the third grand tour of the season starting at the end of August, he may become Astana team leader. More specifically: a minor leader who is not helped but who is not required to help others – just going all out for himself.
The lobbies abound with serious talk of Mr Kangert’s future leadership role. At the Italian tour, the Estonian is bursting with power to pull the Astana number one, Vincenzo Nibali. At the Saturday and Sunday mountain stages, it was Mr Kangert who went into overdrive at the last rise, tore up the group and got Mr Nibali going. Mission accomplished, Mr Kangert took it easy, to save energy. What if not? What if he had kept going?
«Would Kangert not be tasked with helping Nibali at Giro, he’d definitely be in top 10,» assured the Astana sports director Jaan Kirsipuu. «He has not had one lousy day, for the entire race.»
Got confidence, at Giro
But what about the Spanish tour in the fall, and Mr Kangert’s possible leadership role?
«I am not thinking that far ahead, trying to make ends meet at Giro,» Mr Kangert said, shocked at first. Then admitting, that being on form, all is possible at Vuelta.
According to Mr Kirsipuu, there have not been any official discussions of Mr Kangert’s tasks at Vuelta. However: «There is a fat chance of him really being allowed to ride his own ride. Well, it’s up to the directors to decide, but I expect Kangert to be appointed a leader.»
Would be great, indeed – to see what he is capable of.
Mr Kirsipuu: «Astana has never doubted Kangert’s abilities. Rather, he himself has. At this Giro, in addition to all else, it is very important that Kangert got his confidence.»
With Vuelta not here yet, Giro needs to be secured first. The last week, from Thursday including three heavy duty stages: first a 23 separate start stage, with 6.6 per cent rise angle the bulk of the distance; then two days of tough climbing, Friday reaching to 2,758 metre level.
Ultra-tough stages coming
Yesterday, in the morning of the day off, Mr Kangert was happy to announce to feel good and strong on his feet: «On Sunday, the body hurt a bit and felt stiff, because on Saturday we had to pedal for five hours in a cool rain. Took loads of energy. The day after, the stage wasn’t that bad. It was only the final half an hour that we rode in the snow; by then, adrenaline was up and the body warm.»
So warm, actually, that he gave his blue-black-white sleeves to Mr Nibali, who proudly finished in Estonian flag colours.
Mr Kangert also shared about the Sunday stage that they all riders agreed to take it easy on the first long rise. «It was agreed that no one would attack. Snowfall was expected and descent would have been dangerously slippery. The sun still managed to quickly dry up the asphalt, so after the mountain we got to racing.»
At the first tempo ride at Giro, Mr Kangert came third. At the Thursday’s separate start, will he give it all to win?
«Definitely not, as Friday-Saturday will be ultra-tough and we cannot let Nibali lose the leadership position. If the feet are strong, I’ll ride separate start with 95 per cent strength.»
Mr Kirsipuu also confirming that Mr Kangert, Mr Nibali’s helper-in-chief, is not allowed to do anything for himself, as Mr Nibali’s overall victory is far from secured.
But wouldn’t it be profitable for Astana to help Mr Kangert into top 10, the team thus getting more World Tour points?
Mr Kangert: «These few dozen points mean nothing to me nor to Astana. What counts is that Nibali wins.»