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NAPLES, Italy (VN) — Deja vu all over again? For me, it means my second Giro. Seems normal for a professional rider — right? Well, not for me, considering my first and last Giro was back in 2005. That’s 56 years in dog years, or, simply a long time.
Hopefully, things will go a little differently this time round. In 2005, things weren’t bad, but I was a neo-pro: a 21-year-old lad thrown deep into the circus of a grand tour. I would imagine, and hopefully expect, that I have gotten somewhat smarter and somewhat better, but chances of that are also debatable. (I guess we’ll see.)
So, what’s it like to hit a grand tour? Well, the first two days before a grand tour are a mess. Just because we aren’t racing doesn’t mean we have endless hours to sit around. Training sessions, new bikes, interviews, team time trial training, team presentation, sponsor presentations, all while trying to concentrate on the task at hand — racing a bike.
Luckily, we have some pretty spectacular support in terms of team staff. To be honest, it blows me away how many staff members and vehicles we have here in Italy. This reminds me how big the Giro d’Italia is to the sporting world.
Here is a quick run down of the Saxo-Tinkoff support:
9 Riders (from 7 different countries)
2 Sport directors
4 Massage therapists
1 Body therapist (think chiro/osteo)
1 Equipment manager
1 Media relations person
1 Sponsor representative
1 Team doctor
1 Team trainer
1 Bus driver
And 1 Team owner …
Add that to all the sponsors dropping in and out, and add two trucks, one bus, five cars, and a team van … you can see and probably understand the size of the organization.
And all this for one team!
So how do you actually physically and mentally prepare yourself for nearly four weeks on the road? The physical side is fairly elementary, and while you believe you have brought yourself to one of the holy grails of cycling in top form, the question mark remains until that first mountaintop finish. Hopefully you get that gratifying feeling during a stage of, “oh, I actually feel really, really good today.” Sometimes that comes, and sometimes you feel like you are chasing a peloton around Italy for three weeks.
Preparing mentally is another thing. Let’s be honest here. Is the idea of 1,875 miles of racing, 20 different hotels, 1,800-odd miles of transfers, crashes, punctures, and stuffing your face full of pasta daunting? Damn right it is. Anyone who isn’t slightly apprehensive about that is probably lying to you. But I have a secret plan to manage it (or at least I think I do … maybe … hopefully).
The Rory Sutherland Giro Plan:
1. Only read the race guide one page at a time, no skipping forward! A glance, yes, but not dwelling or worrying about what’s next.
2. Buy an Italian SIM card for my phone to have access to email, Twitter, Facebook for the entirety of the race.
3. Set expectations according to the real world as opposed to some crazy dream I had as a kid. I’m not saying not to dream or to try, but to at least attempt to do it in a realistic (plus 20-percent dream) kind of way.
4. Adapt. Simple as it sounds, maybe not so easy to do. Be ready for change!
5. And lastly, enjoy it. Why the hell not? I mean, how many people get to do this as a job, how many people get a three-week guided, fed, and massaged tour of Italy with their wallet squarely tucked deep in their suitcase?
So, this is the first edition of the Giro according to Rory Sutherland 2013. Yes, eight years removed from the maiden voyage on the road of Italy eight years ago.
I’ll be checking in a handful of times over the next few weeks, so you can track my mental and physical states during this three-week odyssey.
Hold onto your handlebars! Feel free to jump on board the social media train to see a little bit of the insider’s guide to the trials and tribulations of the Giro d’Italia 2013.
Rory Sutherland is a ninth-year professional with Saxo-Tinkoff. A multiple-time National Racing Calendar champion in the U.S., Sutherland got the call-up to Europe in the off-season on the strength of his stage win on Flagstaff Mountain in the USA Pro Challenge. A dedicated father and husband, Sutherland is a talented all-rounder on the bike and a key component of Saxo’s 2013 Giro d’Italia squad.