Giro d'Italia

Brandon McNulty pedals into Giro d’Italia’s second half with confidence

Grand tour rookie Brandon McNulty hopes to carry momentum into final week at Giro d'Italia.

Brandon McNulty is hoping to keep riding the wave into the second half of the Giro d’Italia.

On Tuesday, the grand tour rookie dashed to an impressive second place behind Peter Sagan. That comes on the heels of Sunday’ strong performance in stage 9.

After enjoying his best day so far in the Giro, the U.S. rider bounded up the GC, moving up from 18th to 13th going into stage 11.

“I got a puncture on one of the steep climbs and I had a long chase back on,” McNulty said Tuesday. “It was a reduced group and no one had a teammate, so I knew that if I could get a jump on the group then I could stay clear and that’s exactly what happened. I knew I was close to Sagan; the stage win would have been nice but also second place on the stage is incredible.”

If racing grand tours is about recovery and going the distance, McNulty is starting to find his groove in his Giro debut.

“This Giro for me is more about the execution and getting through each day,” McNulty told VeloNews. “That’s what I’m focusing on, to learn about racing a grand tour, to remain concentrated in the right moments. I’ve been able to be up there with the best guys a few days and have a decent kick in the end.”

McNulty comes into his first grand tour with realistic expectations. He has no pressure from his team other than to put in a full effort each day and learn from every scenario that he is coming up against. If the wheels go spinning off the cart one day, that’s not a problem.

Ultimately, the Arizona resident would like to evolve into a grand tour rider. He admits he’s not quite on the same level as teammate Tadej Pogačar, who was third in his grand tour debut last year at the Vuelta a España, and then won the Tour de France last month in his first try.

Yet McNulty harbors his own ambitions, but also realizes there is a lot of work ahead of him before he’s at the level of challenging for a grand tour podium.

“The team is really supporting me here,” McNulty said. “It’s been interesting watching riders like Nibali and Fuglsang, and watch when they decide to make a move. You can tell they use the experience to their advantage.”

McNulty, 22, will cool his jets Wednesday in a profile ideal for UAE-Emirates teammate Fernando Gaviria. The Colombian was caught up in a spill Tuesday, but team officials said he is expected to be ready to dispute what is expected to be a mass gallop.

“I feel OK and we see what happens today,” Gaviria said at the start, Wednesday. “My teammate McNulty is a really good rider and he’s getting better because he’s the first grand tour and then we’ll see what happens every day.”

Compatriot and teammate Joe Dombrowski is also helping guide McNulty through his grand tour debut, offering tips and helping to keep safely tucked inside the bunch.

“This TT-heavy Giro really suits Brandon quite well and he could do a good GC,” Dombrowski said. “At the moment he is only a few minutes back.”

Brandon McNulty and Fernando Gaviria at the 2020 Giro d'Italia
Brandon McNulty (right) and Fernando Gaviria at the 2020 Giro d’Italia. Photo: Fabio Ferrari – Pool/Getty Images

Speaking to VeloNews on the Giro’s first rest day on Monday, McNulty said he’s starting to find his groove as the Giro unfolds. After a solid climb up Mount Etna on stage 3 which slotted him into the top 10 on GC, he slipped back after suffering bad legs on stage 5. He thought he was going to be in for more suffering Sunday, but suddenly found his legs at the right time.

“Early on stage 9, I really didn’t feel good at all, and I thought I was really bad, then with 35km to go, my legs opened up,” McNulty said. “It was like there was a switch, and I was good again. So that day was kind of the best day and worst day all in one.”

It was his best day, until Tuesday’s big ride. He’s looking forward to the next time trial on stage 14, but isn’t overlooking transition stages like what’s in store Thursday. And the big mountains in the final week?

“That’s going to be a big unknown for me,” he said. “I’ve never done climbs that long so deep into a race. I guess we’ll have a better idea of what I need to work on after this Giro.”