Cycling: Latecomer Schleck finds Giro course to his liking


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The Independent Online

Luxembourg's Frank Schleck cancelled his holiday plans to take part in the Giro d'Italia but the Radioshack rider said he had no regrets at becoming a last-minute addition to the team because the course suits him.

Schleck, who finished third in the 2011 Tour de France – a place behind younger brother Andy – will lead Radioshack during the three-week race, which starts in Denmark on Saturday after replacing the injured Jakob Fuglsang in the team.

"I'm surprised because I was due for a break after the Ardennes Classics [in late April]," Schleck said. "But then the team called me up and asked me if I could do the Giro. I'm also pleased because I've had three days here with the team already. The course suits me, too. There are seven to 10 flatter stages first of all, which I'll need to get back into shape."

Cycling's second-biggest stage race begins with an 8.7-kilometre prologue in Herning, which is over 1,200km from Italy – the race's furthest ever starting point from its home country.

Hotels, shops and streets of the town in the unremittingly flat Jutland province are decked out in the Giro's trademark pink colours to celebrate the race's first visit to Denmark. The prologue, with 17 corners on a short city-centre circuit, is very technical but Schleck was unfazed by the course: "In eight or nine kilometres, you're not going to lose the Giro, with three weeks racing still ahead of you."

With no Alberto Contador, winner last year before the result was nullified when the Court of Arbitration for Sport banned the Spaniard for two years for failing a dope test during the 2010 Tour, the Giro lacks a clear favourite. The former champion Ivan Basso of Italy, Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez and Colombian Rigoberto Uran – whose team-mate world champion Mark Cavendish is also riding – are possible contenders in an event featuring a less challenging route than in 2011.