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The Dutchman is trying to defend his 2017 Giro d’Italia title but says himself that teams Mitchelton-Scott and Sky are stronger than Sunweb.
“It’s up to the leader to be strong and to play a role, in the end, to play for the GC,” sports director Mark Reef told VeloNews about the situation.
“We also have to make smart decisions. Team Sky has always taken control and will probably do so anyway, and depending if they have the jersey or not, and we have to do it smartly.
“Some guys need to work one day and on other days, certain other men. If we do that over three weeks, we are strong enough to play a role and defend the title.”
Dumoulin and his team did so in 2017. They spread their energies over three weeks, then he dominated the time trials in and took on Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali in the mountains.
He began the 2018 Giro with a bang. He won the opening time trial in Jerusalem in his world champion rainbow stripes. That leader’s pink jersey is now on the shoulder of Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), who took bonus seconds in stage two.
But Sunweb, like other teams, has a smaller budget than Sky. With less to go around for top riders, they must save riders for other races throughout the 2018 season. Sunweb stars like Wilco Kelderman and Michael Matthews didn’t make the trip to the Giro in order to target the Tour de France in July.
“It was quite easy to select our eight men in the end. We looked the course with the information we had. There are a lot of mountain stages and mountain finishes. It’s going to be a hard Giro, so we selected the riders who had the qualities to do something on the mountains,” Reef added.
“Let’s start with the first guys to position and on the flat stages, Roy Curvers and Lennard Hofstede. Then the group of riders who do their job afterward, Chad Haga, Chris Hamilton and Laurens Ten Dam, and then in the final, we hope to have Louis Vervaeke and Sam Oomen to support tom as long as possible. Sam Oomen showed already in his first grand tour, last year’s Vuelta a España, that he can be there with the first 15 riders and we also hope that during the Giro, Louis Vervaeke can grow into that role.”
Froome will rely on heavy hitters Wout Poels, Sergio Henao, Kenny Elissonde, and David De La Cruz. Salvatore Puccio, and long-time helpers Vasil Kiryienka and Christian Knees will pull the team along the flats. Looking from the outside, one would be forgiven for mistaking this team with Sky’s Tour de France roster.
Sunweb relies more on fresh faces with Dumoulin yet to establish a dedicated grand tour roster around him. Laurens Ten Dam and Chad Haga are the only returning riders from the winning 2017 Giro team. And Sunweb is the only team with four young classification riders, 25 and under – other teams have at the most three.
“Age doesn’t have to do with quality,” Reef said. “We want to have quality in the team and that’s our main focus, and that’s the team we brought here. Also, you gain more experience in the years and you get somewhat stronger, but when you have the quality already as a young guy then you can be an important rider for the team.”