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"This year I start calmer because I will do the Giro d'Italia which will be my main focus. I have been entrusted the youngster [Fabio Aru] and I will follow him in all races. I will always be at his side," Tiralongo tells Spaz...

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ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

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PAOLO TIRALONGO

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29.11.2013 @ 17:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Despite being capable of top 10 finishes in grand tours himself, Paolo Tiralongo is known as one of the most loyal domestiques in the peloton and has been at the side of riders like Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali during their grand tour winning rides. In 2014, the veteran will take on a new role as he will be the mentor of the talented stage racer Fabio Aru.

 

Paolo Tiralongo may not have taken many wins in his long career but he remains one of the most valued riders in the peloton. Loyalty, hard work and excellent climbing legs have seen him become of the most trusted domestiques for grand tour winners like Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali.

 

Riding in Astana colours, Tiralongo was at Contador's side when the Spaniard won the 2010 Tour de France (a win that was taken away from him due to his positive clenbuterol test) and this year he played an important role for Nibali in his Giro-winning ride. With two Giro d'Italia stage wins and a top 10 finish in the Tour de France on his palmares, Tiralongo has shown that he is able to do well in big races himself but he has mostly sacrificed himself for team leaders.

 

In 2014, he will take on a new role of mentor as the veteran has been given the task of guiding young Fabio Aru as he tries to develop into a potential grand tour winner. In first 16 months as a professional, Aru has shown that he has what it takes to become one of the best stage races in the world and as he is expected to be a co-leader with Michele Scarponi in next year's Giro, he needs guidance from an experienced rider.

 

Tiralongo is ready to now ride in support of one of the brightest talents on the cycling scene.

 

"This year I start calmer because I will do the Giro d'Italia which will be my main focus," Tiralongo told Spaziociclismo. "I have been entrusted the youngster [Fabio Aru] and I will follow him in all races. I will always be at his side. I am the oldest on the team, a more experienced rider, especially in stage races, and so I am the right one to teach Fabio who may be the future in stage races. I was assigned this role and I agreed. I am happy to do it and I enjoy working with young."

 

The Giro may, however, not be his only grand tour in 2014. There is a possibility that he will be riding alongside Nibali in the Tour de France.

 

"We will see after the Giro where I can find some personal room at some stage to try to achieve a result," he said. "If I feel alright and is not completely worn-out, I could also go to the Tour de France but it is something that we will look at later. I particularly like the Giro. At the Giro, I don't feel that I miss something. At my age I can do both stage races but we must know how to handle it and do fewer races in the early part of the season. I need to save energy to be race from May and onwards."

 

Early in his career Tiralongo indicated that he could become a grand tour rider on his own. The veteran has, however, no regrets that he ended up as a domestique.

 

"Everyone tells me that I could have achieved more in stage races if I had taken more responsibility," he said. "But it's a choice. I've always had a winning mentality but when I had the accident in 2003 where I broke my vertebrae, I spent a year trying to get back into form. I realized that it took me longer to get where I wanted to be and in the meantime, the years passed. I decode to take on the important role of being at the side of great champions.

 

"However, I have no regrets," he added. "I am so satisfied with my career. I am always there from January to October. I always want to do all the races and so I have ended up doing 80 races a few times. I'm not one that goes to races to prepare, I am there to race. I always give my best."

 

His domestique mentality becomes obvious when he is asked to point out the highlights of his career.

 

"There have been many but perhaps the one that I remember with most pleasure is the victory in the 2010 Tour de France with Alberto Contador, especially the stage to Pau," he said. "It was much feared because it was a very hard stage with four of five climbs at the start with the Peresourd, the Soulor and the Tourmalet. Before the start, I told Alberto that I would give my best and I ended up pulling for 100 kilometres on my own. I pulled for him on all the climbs and he told me that it was awesome. It was a great satisfaction for me.

 

"It was also nice to finish the last Giro d'Italia, to get to Brescia with Vincenzo in the maglia rosa even though I had five days with a temperature of 39 degrees, was a great satisfaction. With my perseverance, I made it. The fact that we won made it even more satisfactory.

 

"Of course my stage victories are also a nice memory. Two stages in the Giro are important," he added, finally mentioning some personal results.

 

Actually, Tiralongo left Lampre to get more personal opportunities but he ended up on the same team as Contador. Hence, he was back in his usual role.

 

"The year before [joining Astana] I was 8th in the Vuelta and proved my ability in three-week races," he said. "That year we had Alberto as captain but before the Tour I did the Giro d'Italia where I had carte blanche. Unfortunately, I crashed and abandoned but at that point I was 6th on GC and did well after having already done well in races earlier in the season. I have always had my own chances and I will still have so in select races."

 

Nonetheless, Tiralongo prepares himself for another season where he will ride in support of one of his teammates.

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