Our roster for the Giro d’Italia
We are going to race the first grand tour of the season with all of the creativity and grit that we have got.
For the next three weeks, Hugh Carthy, Rigoberto Urán, Jonathan Caicedo, Alberto Bettiol, Alexander Cepeda, Magnus Cort, Stefan de Bod, and Ben Healy will climb snow-capped cols in the Apennines, Dolomites, and Alps, time trial alongside the Mediterranean, and sprint through villages up and down the Italian peninsula on their way to Rome, where the 105th edition of the Corsa Rosa will end. The final lap passes the Pantheon and Villa Borghese. The winner will pull on the historic pink jersey in the shadow of the Colosseum.
Italy’s greatest arena, however, is the country itself.
It’s as if the nation were built for bike racing, with its narrow roads that wind through old towns and olive groves and vineyards. Wherever the Giro goes, mountains are looming. The Cima Coppi, marking the highest point in this year’s race, is just over the Swiss border on the Gran San Bernardo, 2,469 m above sea level. Summit finishes on the likes of Gran Sasso in the Apennines or the race to Crans-Montana on stage 13 in the Alps are just preludes to the brutal final week, which will culminate with a breathtaking 19th stage to the heights of Tre Cime di Lavaredo, followed by a time trial up the Monte Lussari that could turn the general classification on its head. The race for the maglia rosa won’t be decided until the final parade into Rome.
“We have to approach this Giro with humility and a bold attitude,” says sports director Matti Breschel. “This is one of the strongest teams that we have ever brought to the Giro. Hugh is really strong and Rigo is really on it. We have tons of experience. It is going to be a very honest race. We will have to fight every day to achieve something. You never really know what is going to happen. It is a super, super tough course, but it is tough for everybody. I like that challenge.”
This Giro won’t just be a test of climbing. Every stage is likely to be an open race that will reward attackers and pose a danger to GC hopefuls. On Italy’s narrow, hilly roads, it will be very difficult for any one team to control the peloton or ensure a bunch sprint or straight-up uphill race.
That means opportunities for our breakaway artist Ben Healy, who is coming off a fantastic spring campaign in the Ardennes and wants to win a stage, and Magnus Cort, who can hang on over the climbs and beat any sprinter on his day. They will fold the corners of a number of pages in their copies of the Garibaldi race book to mark the days that they want to go for a victory.
“For sure a stage would be super nice,” Ben says. “I need to see how the legs respond after the Ardennes. I think there are a few nice stages. Obviously, we have got a good team, and I will take the opportunities when I can get them.”
Alberto Bettiol would love another stage victory in his home Tour too and will be hunting for redemption after illness took him out of the classics. Stefan de Bod, Jonathan Caicedeo, and Alexander Cepeda are ready to pull. And the whole team will ride for Hugh and Rigo during the race’s grand mountain stages. They have both been targeting the Giro from the start of the year.
Last year, Hugh finished ninth overall. He loves the Italian race and its history.
“I am excited,” Hugh says. “The style of racing at the Giro is not old-fashioned, but at times it can be more relaxed and more traditional, like it was maybe 10, 15, 20 years ago. It is the first grand tour of the year, so you feel like you are getting a head start on everyone else. The whole event: the pink, the starts with all of the balloons, and people by the barriers and things just feel right. It is a nice race. The fans are great. Italy is a knowledgeable cycling country. The people really appreciate seeing riders up close.”
Hugh is optimistic about his chances at the Italian grand tour and has his sights set on the mountains in the third week. He had a great start to the season and is coming off a second place finish on GC at the Tour of the Alps. He is fit and healthy and satisfied with the training he has done to prepare for the Giro.
“It has been a different build to last year. I find myself in good shape,” he says. “I think with the team that we have and the way we have raced so far this year, we can aim high. There are going to be ups and downs like there always are at the Giro but hopefully we can come through the other side of it as a strong team with a strong set of results between us.”
Rigoberto Urán is ready to go for a big result, too. We can always count on the Colombian veteran to be there at the hardest moments of the hardest races. After completing his trifecta of grand tour stage wins with his victory at the Vuelta last summer, Rigo wants to show the world that he is still a contender.
“We have a strong team,” Rigo says. “I hope for a stage. We all want to do a great job. It is a long and very hard race and I want to help the team every day at the front.
Matti Breschel stresses how much Rigo will matter to our Giro team.
“Rigo brings in a lot of x-factor,” Matti says. “There is this aura around him that makes people calm in a way, because we have always been able to rely on him. He doesn’t say much, but when he does, people listen. I expect a lot. He is really focused and really on it. He wants to finish his career on a top, top level. That is the reason he wanted to do the Giro. He said it himself. He is super ready. And that will ease the pressure.”
This Giro will still be pandemonium.
To compete on the GC, Hugh and Rigo will have to excel in three solo time trials. This year’s race features more kilometers of racing against the clock than the Giro’s fans have seen for more than a decade.
“Considering who is here, and the way things are now in the racing, time trials are so important and if you have a bad day, you can lose ground to a lot of people now,” Hugh says. “The whole top end of the peloton is good, so it is important to have good days on those three days. I have done a lot of work on my TT bike this season. But we’ve got to be ready every day. There are no free stages, and there are some stages that you can’t really decide what is going to happen—a breakaway or maybe a GC fight or a sprint or a small sprint, so there is a lot to look forward to and a lot to be ready for. It is going to be a hard three weeks, like it usually is.”
That unpredictability is what makes the Giro such a beautiful race. From the opening time trial from Fossacesia Marina to Ortona to the finale on the historic streets of the capital, the action will not cease. For the next three weeks, Italy will be gripped by Giromania. Fans will trek to the far-flung corners of their country to watch the race and party. It’s always a pleasure to compete in the corsa rosa, even when it gets crazy and loud and it hurts.
Matti Breschel said it best.
“The Giro is rock ‘n’ roll, with all of the spectators and the passion around it.”