2019 Giro Parcours
On paper, the most notable thing about this year’s Giro is how back-ended the mega mountain stages are. There surely are still some GC influencing, time gap producing stages in the first half but starting 3-4 days before the second rest day all the way to the finish, there is a ton of climbing with some massive days stacked up back-to-back. From the three Giro’s that I’ve started and finished in my career, I know that this race isn’t about the challenges that are obvious on paper. There are always some hidden climbs, technical villages and sneaky small roads that seem to pop out of nowhere and throw some complications into the already demanding profiles and stage distances.
Time Trial Heavy
I have some great memories of my first ever Grand Tour stage at the 2010 Giro where I was second in the opening time trial to Bradley Wiggins. It’s hard to believe that was almost 10 years ago! I won't be lining up for that first TT in Bologna nearly as nervous as I was back in 2010, but it will still be a good outing to open up the system and get the race rolling.
I think in a race like the Giro that has so many heavy and often unpredictable climbing stages, it makes it exciting to have additional TT miles. Time trials have gotten so much more competitive in the past 10 years. These days, the best GC guys and climbers have minimal compromise and weakness when it comes to the TT's. Additionally, stage performances in the grand tour TT's have become more competitive with every rider dialing in their TT position, spending more time training on the bike, and way fewer riders using these TT days to "take it easy".
One of the most significant differences in my lead up and prep for this year’s Giro compared to that 2010 edition and others that I’ve done, is the limited and almost nonexistent prep and specific focus on the time trial. This is primarily due to my new home at Mitchelton-Scott where it is very clear our main priority for the Giro is to support Simon Yates in the GC hunt. This has been another component of the team transition.
It’s been a big gap since I last raced (Coppi e Bartali), which is somewhat new for me and influenced by the team's coaching and performance staff. I've always enjoyed solid blocks of training, but this one has been quite long and has required some focus to prepare away from the races.
On the plus side, it has been nice to control as many variables as possible, which helps with staying healthy and safe. The week after Coppi, I took a bit of a rest week for the mind and body and then began back at it with a couple of solid weeks of training in Girona. Recently, I headed up to Sierra Nevada for some altitude training with my teammate and past Giro stage winner Mikel Nieve. Chasing him around the mountains and big climbs were pretty uncomfortable but hopefully good prep for all the climbing to come!
Now a few quick days at home in Girona to repack the suitcase and get a little time with Jamie and then off to Bologna the Wednesday before the race starts to begin the near month on the road.
I feel my head is in a good place heading into the race. The best thing I can do is find some balance between being focused with also relaxing and taking some confidence from the preparation that I've done. Switching coaches this year and training has been invigorating but also challenging, as I don't get all the same "confidence checks/boosts" that I’ve become accustomed to over the past years.
The training camp time was a good chance to do some soft practice for the race days that are coming where we basically just eat, sleep, ride, repeat. I'll throw in some breathing, visualization and mindfulness work when needed. I'll also squeeze in a little work on the Bookwalter Binge, which is a healthy distraction and brings me a little out of the training and pro cycling mind space.
I'm feeling really motivated to get back to racing a Grand Tour all-in for a GC leader who is so capable. The Vuelta last year was good for some perspective, and as I went through the race, I tried to be honest with myself about the pros and cons of not having a GC guy to rally behind. Ultimately, at the place I'm at in my career, I think my skill set is best used applying my experience and ability towards the team’s objectives in the GC fight, so I'm excited to get back to that.
That doesn't mean there won't be days when I wish I could just relax and live to fight for another stage hunting day, but I've had some good Grand Tour GC-supporting memories and will definitely flashback to those, reminding me what is possible.