Giro d'Italia

Larry Warbasse on Giro d’Italia campaign: ‘I’m in best shape of my life’

Former US champ hunting for stages with Ag2r-La Mondiale lacking a GC leader to protect in Italy.

There’s no Romain Bardet in this Giro d’Italia, so that means Larry Warbasse will be unleashed.

Ag2r-La Mondiale brings a hit squad of stage-hunters to the 2020 Giro, meaning Warbasse can have the freedom to move in his third start of the “corsa rosa.”

“We’ll be going for stages,” Warbasse told VeloNews. “That’s the big goal for me right now. I’m definitely in the best shape of my life. I have the legs to do it.”

Warbasse, 30, knows that hitting the right breakaway on the right day with the right mix of riders in the move requires a special blend of racing acumen plus a touch of luck.

“It really depends on the situation in the race, who has the leader’s jersey, what’s coming up, there are so many factors,” Warbasse said. “It’s the teams and the riders who decide if a break stays away or not.”

This is Warbasse’s third crack at the Giro and his seventh grand tour start. He loves Italy and often dips across the border from his European base on France’s Cote d’Azur for visits, but the race hasn’t treated him great. In his first Giro, he pinched a nerve and was forced to stop. Last year, he said he suffered through the second half, and rode to the finish 52nd overall.

“I can’t say I’ve had that many positive experiences with the Giro, though I really love racing in Italy,” he said. “I can say this year I am in much better condition.”

The Giro aside, Warbasse is a big fan of Italy. He lived in Tuscany in his first year as a professional with BMC Racing in 2013, and often trains at altitude in Livigno.

Now based in the French Riviera, he will often include training rides into nearby Italy.

“Maybe the Giro hasn’t gone super-well for me, I just love Italy in general,” he said. “I love the food, you can’t beat that. To race in a country with incredible food and such passionate fans, that makes it enjoyable. Cycling is so big there.”

Like many in this disrupted COVID-19 season, Warbasse saw his calendar disrupted and switched around. He returned to Michigan for the long lockdown period, and then went back to Europe only to test positive for COVID-19 after racing Il Lombardia despite showing no symptoms.

Several follow-up tests returned negative, so Warbasse is not really sure if he really had it, or if it was a false positive. What he does know is that he’s showing up at the Giro with what he calls the best legs of his career.

“I haven’t raced much, but I’ve trained a ton. I’ve done the best preparation for a grand tour in my career,” he said. “I’ve trained more than I ever have in my life.”

Like many in the Giro, everyone is looking into the final week of the route with a mix of trepidation and opportunity. With longer, old-school distances of more than 200km per stage, and sometimes packed with more than 4,000 vertical meters of climbing, the final week of the Giro is loaded with climbing at altitude.

While the new dates have shaken things up a bit, Warbasse expects the Giro to be as exciting and grueling as ever.

“We could see more inclement weather in the last week of the race since it’s in late October,” Warbasse said. “We’ve seen some pretty good racing since coming back in August, and I don’t think that will change. All this talk of lockdown affecting the racing, but we’ve seen guys coming out of lockdown and just smashing it. Alaphilippe was in full lockdown, and he just crushed the worlds. I think this Giro will be par for the course.”

Warbasse is hoping that the traditional Giro script includes a stage victory with him in the starring role.