Culture

Chad Haga Giro Journal: Ready to rip

American Chad Haga is excited for his first Giro d'Italia, a race that is hard to pack for, but promises delicious post-race buffets

Editor’s note: Giant-Alpecin’s Chad Haga will be providing regular updates from the Giro d’Italia this May. The race begins Saturday, May 9.

When my director told me that I would not be racing the Tour of California this year, I was upset. It was my only race on home soil in 2014, and I’d been looking forward to racing there again, a year stronger and wiser. Only one thing could lessen the pain, however, and I thought, “The next word out of your mouth had better be ‘Giro.’” When it was, I immediately had a new focus for the first half of the year: to be on the start line in Italy on May 9, ready to rip.

Following my month-long respite from racing, I suffered through the Tour of Romandie last week. It was rough at points, but I endured, knowing from last year’s experience before the Vuelta that a race like this would send me into the Giro fresh, but with enough fitness to start off strong.

Everything this season has gone according to plan for me, and now only one sleep remains before I start my second grand tour: the Giro d’Italia. The name of the race alone evokes a sort of romanticism, an attitude that pervades all aspects of the sport here. Each of the grand tours has its own heritage and national flavor, and Italy’s is one of beauty and majesty. If we’re honest, the Giro also has its own reputation with regards to weather and crazy racing. This year’s edition certainly has the possibility to live up to expectations.

Speaking of weather, packing for three weeks of racing can be a bit of an ordeal. I packed my suitcase like Noah loaded his ark: two of everything. He was only worried about rain, though, whereas I was packing for the Giro. I’ve got everything from mesh summer gloves to fleece bibs.

Now, I find myself in a hotel on Capo Berta, part of the race route from Milano-Sanremo; this place is home to fond memories from only a couple of months ago, but this time I’m not here to race a classic (although a few of the Giro stages are long enough to qualify). We’ve had a few days here to soak up the environment and make sure that we start the race in the highest of spirits possible. We have no general classification aspirations, so we look forward to 21 stages of opportunistic racing, hopefully netting a win or two by the time we finish in Milano.

Before starting the Vuelta a España last year, I was primarily concerned with my ability to finish the race. Having performed well throughout all three weeks, that fear is largely eliminated in my mind for the Giro. I now have confidence in my ability to go the distance, but I fear all of the other circumstances that fall outside of my control which could send me home early. Just take it one day at a time, right?

I credit a large part of my survival in the Vuelta last year to our team chef. She also gets credit for the weight I managed to put on during three weeks of racing. Yes, apparently that’s possible. Our staff for the Giro does not include a chef, however, a fact that made me anxious until I considered that we’re in Italy. A normal race buffet serves rice or pasta with red sauce, options that possess the special ability to make a bike racer lose his appetite after only days. In Italia, however, it becomes risotto or tagliatelle al ragu alla Bolognese. And we already have plans for pizza on the rest days. Just typing that sentence makes me wonder how long ‘til dinner. I might just survive this race after all.

Buckle up, as we’re about to embark on the crazy adventure that is the Giro d’Italia! I’ll be chronicling the experience, so be prepared for some candid tales from the road, if you’re into that sort of thing. Tomorrow: a race for the bike-path speed demons out there.