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Giro d'Italia

How Groupama-FDJ’s fridge-sized fastmen survive the mighty mountains of the Giro d’Italia

Groupama-FDJ took a true gang of giants to the Giro to launch Arnaud Démare to sprint success. The problem with being massive? All those mountains.

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CATANIA, Italy (VN) – Averaging six-feet-two (188cm) in height and 168lb (76kg) in weight, Groupama-FDJ’s collective of fridge-size speedsters made a statement when they strode up for sign-on at the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday morning.

Groupama’s gang of giants came to the Giro d’Italia clustered around French speedster Arnaud Démare and Grande Partenza posterboy Attila Valter.

Valter has been hailed as a huge climbing hope for the team. He made for a VIP on the streets of Budapest last weekend and brought his team a haul of headlines.

For Groupama-FDJ, there is one problem having the Hungarian hero along for the ride: He’s screwed with the stats.

“Ah having Attila on the team, he’s a climber and he fucked up our average weight, without him we would have been definitely the biggest in the race,” joked six-foot-three, 176lb leadout man Jacopo Guarnieri.

Ahead of this year’s Giro, Guarnieri tweeted the towering numbers of his team’s “Giro Eight.”

At 194cm, Tobias Ludviggson is the giant of a gang of already oversized proportions. Démare is the team’s “shortie” but still stands a full 182cm.

And the weight? It’s safe to say the Groupama team bus sinks a little lower than the rest of the Giro circus when its full pack of rugby-forward-size riders steps aboard.

“We’re really tall and really big, that can be good for helping a sprinter like Arnaud. He’s still 182 but he’s the smallest of our team,” Guarnieri told VeloNews ahead of stage 5 on Wednesday. “For sure in a sprint where you need to be a little bit physical, being such big guys, it can help.”

The only problem with topping the peloton’s scales?

Groupama-FDJ’s sizable squadra needs to haul their hulking frames through some of the fiercest climbs in Italy while avoiding the time cut if they’re going to drive Démare toward the fast finishes.

A typically vert-packed Giro stands in the team’s path.

Démare crossed the line alongside teammates Guarnieri, Clément Davy, and Ramon Sinkeldam atop Etna at the close of the first summit finish of the race Tuesday.

“It was not easy. Luckily we came into the bottom in the peloton so there was no stress for the time cut but for sure when we have days of 5,000 meter [elevation gain], already on the seventh stage it’s going to be pretty rough,” Guarnieri joked. “If you’re 80 kilos like me, you just need to hold on.”

Giants in the gruppetto: ‘We just try to focus on not thinking too much about the suffering’

Suffering in solidarity – the Gruppo takes on Etna, (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Guarnieri will need to drag Démare through a characteristically cruel Giro in the coming weeks. After pacing Démare through his last seven grand tours, Guarnieri knows what works when the road points upward.

“The best is never to overpace it,” he said. “The giro is a little bit kinder for the sprinters than the Tour with the time cut, so you have to just not go into a crisis and not go over your tempo the whole day and you can survive.”

“We’re lucky, we know each other well and avoid arguments. We’re just trying to focus on not thinking about the suffering, and making it through,” Guarnieri quipped.

Next up – Messina mass sprint

At 190 cm high, Guarnieri towered over his intimidated interviewer Wednesday morning. (Photo: Andy Hood.)

Démare is looking to go one better than his stage 3 second-place Wednesday. Unlike Mark Cavendish and Caleb Ewan, the Frenchman was distanced on the stage 5 climb but fared better than Cavendish and Ewan. He made it back to the bunch before the sprint finish, while the Manxman and Australian had to give up the chase.

Guarnieri said the sprint field is tight, but the confidence is high.

“Cavendish is in really good shape, and Girmay is really really strong and has really impressed me, he’s super punchy but in the first real sprint that was really flat – he was strong he was there,” Guarnieri said. “Gaviria looks like he’s back in real good shape too so I think we can expect a nice clash between the sprinters later today.”