Janez Brajkovic has long been thought of as a strong stage racer with limitless upside. The Slovenian has studied under such cycling luminaries as Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador during his more than five years as a professional, and the lessons he has learned over the years are clearly starting to pay dividends. After a stellar time trial ride at the Dauphine Libere today, Brajkovic sits in first place overall, in the driver's seat heading into the decisive stages of the race.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Brajkovic, in addition to being a consummate professional on the bike, is also well known as a stand up guy off it. He is always available for a photo or autograph signing for his fans, and has also made a reputation as a rider that is approachable for the media as well. To see such a well-mannered guy reaping success is no surprise to those fans that have followed him over the years.
At only 26 years old, Brajkovic's best years are still ahead of him. He has steadily built himself into a strong all-around rider in the first portion of his career, and the time has come for Brajkovic to begin thinking of himself as a protagonist as some of the world's biggest stage races. He may give up the race lead eventually in this year's Dauphine, but either way he'll be able to take big confidence out of his performance at this year's race as he continues to build himself into a stronger and stronger racer.
Two other big names racing the Dauphine, Denis Menchov and Alberto Contador, also look strong ahead of the Tour de France. Although Contador lost his leader's jersey after a so-so time trial, there is clearly nothing to worry about. He is strong now and will be stronger come July, and he'll be very tough to beat for this year's Tour.
Denis Menchov too rode a strong time trial, showing that despite only a few actual racing days thus far in 2010 he is clearly on track for a try at the Tour overall. Menchov tends to get lost in the shuffle due to his quiet demeanor. Make no mistake though, Menchov is a big talent who is capable of great things at the Tour. He knows how to listen to his body and tune for a specific race, and he'll be a big threat as an overall contender come July. Now though, it will be tempo and a gradual building of form for Menchov for the rest of the Dauphine.
Interestingly, Sammy Sanchez has been MIA thus far in the Dauphine, riding anonymously in the middle of the field. He may come to the fore when the big climbs begin in the coming days, but as of yet he has been quiet . . . almost too quiet. Ditto for Chris Horner, who seems a bit off form but should still be in with a good shot at a stage win in the coming days. He'll have to ride to defend Brajkovic's lead, but he still may have a chance to slip away for a stage win if the conditions are right.