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The team’s been wracked with illness and crashes just as the UCI’s sometimes controversial implementation of promotion and relegation rules kick in for the next round of WorldTour licenses.
Alexander Cataford, the lone Canadian in this year’s Giro, said the team isn’t changing the way it races even though it’s currently ranked on the wrong side of the team standings nearing midway through 2022.
Cataford said the team remains focused on winning despite the growing pressure to score points.
“If we were in first place or last place, our process would be exactly the same,” Cataford told VeloNews. “The mindset doesn’t change in the end. When we show up, it’s about scoring the best result possible on the day.”
So far in 2022, Israel-Premier Tech has won four races. Three are from Patrick Bevin, with a stage at the Tour de Romandie and a stage and overall at the Tour of Turkey. Michael Woods won Gran Camiño in Spain.
In terms of points rankings, the team is positioned in the lower third among the WorldTour teams.
Points and rankings will be one criterion when it comes to the next round of WorldTour licenses awarded for 2023 and beyond.
Cataford said the team isn’t too worried right now and is focusing on trying to win at least one stage during this Giro with Nizzolo in the bunch sprints.
“You have to focus on the process and keep trying to win races. If we were first in the standings, or last in the standings, in the end, it’s always the same goal, and that’s to go the race for the best result possible,” Cataford said.
“It’s been a tricky three years, with calendar changes and health issues. We are focusing on the process, and we look at the best way to win the race.”
Cataford is the lone Canadian in the 2022 Giro
The 28-year-old Cataford is off to a good start in his career second Giro start. He rode into the day’s winning breakaway up Mount Etna in stage 4 and promises more before the race is over.
“It’s been a good start, and I was up the road in the breakaway in Mount Etna. Traditionally, that’s been a stage won by the breakaway, and I was there, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the legs to win,” he said. “You gotta be there to try.”
Cataford has a free role here during this Giro, with a few stages marked with an “X” to try for the breakaways. On the sprint days, he pitches in to control the breaks and helps set up the team’s train for Nizzolo.
“My role is to control the breakaway earlier in the stage or to put him in good position with 20km to go. I am not really in that role in the final leadout,” he said. “There is a lot of work to be done before the final sprint, so there’s plenty for me to do.”
With Nizzolo, the team brings four riders for the Giro train, with Rick Zabel, Alex Dowsett, Mathias Brandle, and Jenthe Biermans for the finale.
“I think we have a train to rival those other ones. We have a lot of horsepower here. We have five guys dedicated to the last 3km,” he said. “We have the train to go up against these guys like Cavendish or Ewan. We gotta be smart about how we do it, but we have the horsepower to do it.
“It’s Nizzolo for the sprints, me and Alessandro for the breakaways, and then after stage 14, those guys working on the sprints will have their chances.”
For this year’s Giro, Cataford is the only Canadian starting the race. Three U.S. riders also start, meaning there is a pretty thin North American contingent in the race.
“I am the only Canadian, it’s fun to be here and I’m excited for this Giro,” he said. “There is a big Canadian presence on this team, with the new sponsor coming on with Premier Tech, a big Canadian company, and we have five Canadian riders, and lots of Canadian staffers in the background as well. There is that Canadian element to the team.”