The first Grand Tour of the season is near.
We preview the course, the contenders who’ll be riding Campagnolo, and catch up with Cofidis’s GC star Guillaume Martin.
The first Grand Tour of the season is just around the corner, the 105th edition of the Giro d’Italia, starting in Budapest on Friday 6th May and finishing in Verona on Sunday 29th May.
The legendary 21-stage race covers over 3,400km, beginning with a 195km stage from Budapest to Visegrad that culminates with a tricky 5.5km ascent at 4.2%.
The race features two time trials, totalling 26km and finishing with a 17.1km battle against the clock around Verona, which could well decide this year’s Maglia Rosa.
Mountains are numerous, including Etna and Blockhaus in the first week, the Mortirolo in week two, and the Fedaia and Pordoi both making late appearances.
Three Campagnolo-using teams will be seeking glory in the form of UAE Team Emirates, AG2R CITROËN TEAM and Cofidis.
For UAE Team Emirates, João Almeida will be one of the race favourites. The 23-year-old Portuguese rider finished fourth in 2020 and wore pink for a memorable 15 days.
This season he’s bagged third at Volta a Catalunya and a stage win.
Almeida will be supported by a strong, experienced cast including Davide Formolo and Rui Costa, while Fernando Gaviria will be looking to add to his five Giro stage victories so far.
AG2R CITROËN Team’s provisional line-up features Mikael Cherel, Nans Peters, Lilian Calmejane, Nicolas Prodhomme, Jaakko Hanninen and Felix Gall.
They’ll save their big guns, Ben O’Connor and Benoit Cosnefroy, for the Tour, but will still be on the hunt for individual stage wins.
As for Cofidis, their hopes rest on the shoulders of Guillaume Martin. The 28 year old finished eighth at last year’s Tour de France and will look to go even better this July. However, that’s not before making his Giro debut.
We recently caught up with the Frenchman to talk about his Giro ambitions, his Campagnolo gear selection and, of course, his love of philosophy.
Guillaume, what are your goals for this, your first-ever Giro d’Italia?
The original target is to focus on General Classification. We will see how the race unfolds and if I have to change my goals.
But on paper my goal is to do a good GC. I’m feeling confident after enjoying a strong training camp in Etna for three weeks. I did that just before Liege-Bastogne-Liege [where Guillaume finished 33rd] so I’m well prepared.
The Giro is a big goal for me.
What are the key stages of this year’s race?
As ever in a Grand Tour, the last week will be really important. It’s no different this year with mountain stages in the Alps in the last week. There are mountain stages early, too, which will be important, like Etna [stage four, Avola to Etna, 166km], which is the first uphill finish.
And the stage to Blockhaus [stage nine, Isernia to Blockhaus, 187km]. There are many tough stages over three weeks. I’ve done recons of the stages of Sicily while I was in a training camp in Etna, so did Etna and the one that follows the next day from Catania to Messina [172km].
Before the start in Budapest, we’ll do a few more recons including the first TT [stage two, 9.2km TT around Budapest].
What Campagnolo equipment will you be using at the Giro?
I will be using the Super Record EPS with 12 gears. On the flat I think I will use a big gear of 54 and on the mountain stages I’ll probably use 32/11
Having 12 gears is an advantage because you don’t have a big gap between each gear. Also, it’s incredibly smooth when you change gears.
When it comes to the time trials, I’ll probably use 56 up front.
This will be the first time you’ve raced the Giro and Tour de France in the same season. Are you confident you’ll be recovered and strong come the Tour?
My goal is to ride well at both the Giro and the Tour. I didn’t race that much at the beginning of the year so I’m hoping I’ll be fresh enough at the start of the Tour.
It’ll be the first time racing the Giro and Tour together, but I’ve raced the Tour and Vuelta in the same season twice before so I think this is possible.
Now I am focused on the Giro and then I’ll decide what my ambitions will be for the Tour.
How has the season gone so far?
I’ve been happy with the start of the season. In February I was very close to a stage victory at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var and finished third overall.
I also had two top-10s in the week-long stage races Paris-Nice (ninth) and Volta a Catalunya (eighth). I’ve been consistent and hope I will be again at the Giro and the Tour.
Finally, you’ve written two books on philosophy – a theatre piece on Plato and ‘Socrates on a Bike’, published in 2019. Tell us more about your love of philosophy.
My goal was to talk about philosophy in an easy way with humour and without stress; to link cycling and philosophy in a relaxed manner. For me it’s not complicated to find time to write as it’s part of my balance.
I need to write to feel relaxed; I need to have other things in my life than cycling. It’s important not to be focused on just one thing.
When I have time after my training in the afternoons or on training camp, I go onto the computer and write.
For now, I don’t have a third book planned but I’m still writing and it will come..