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I’ve packed my race suitcase, I’ve left the house, and I’m currently sitting in the departure lounge in Nice waiting for my flight to Budapest.
It’s Giro d’Italia time, and while I’m super excited there’s also a tinge of sadness at this point. This is obviously the last time I’ll be leaving for a three-week race but on top of that, saying goodbye to the wife and kids never gets any easier.
We’ve had some quality time together in the build up to the race, and that’s been really important. It’s also allowed me to switch off a little bit, and savour family time before things get hectic and super busy.
The build up to a grand tour is always a taxing affair, especially the closer we get to the start. These are long days with health checks, press conferences, and lots of last-minute calls that you don’t really factor in when it comes to your agenda.
It’s not as tough as the actual race of course but it’s a different style of demanding, and there’s very little time to relax and soak in the atmosphere that makes the Giro d’Italia so special. By Friday though we’ll be on autopilot and the team has everything dialled in for us.
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On Wednesday we do our main health check and then it’s time for the race briefing with all the riders. That’s a chance to check out all the new cool haircuts guys will be rocking up with and we’ll see whose lean and whose super lean.
I’m sure there will be some pretty fast haircuts out there but by this point the excitement and tension is already starting to build. It’s also a bit of a stare down to be honest because it’s the first time all the riders will have been together, and it’s the first opportunity to check out some of your rivals.
It’s not like UFC or anything but you always like to see how everyone is looking and the mood within certain camps.
Then there’s the Whatsapp groups. We have the riders’ Giro one which is mostly full of gear talk during the race. We talk about what wheels we’re going to ride, clothing, and things like that. Then we have the Ineos chat which shares logistical information like rooming lists and departure times for each day.
The phone just goes nuts at this point with anything from questions about jerseys to GPX files coming through. You know that it’s race time when that starts happening.
‘Carapaz has put his hand up to being the big leader’
In terms of my form I’ve made some good efforts in the last few days. I did my customary ride up the Madone, which I do whenever I leave for a grand tour, and the body is in good shape. I’ve really been on it with my diet, too, and the weight is good.
Perhaps just as importantly, I feel like I’m in a really good spot mentally heading into the race. The team has done a really good job at shielding me, too. I came back to this team at the start of 2021 in order to ease some of the stress and pressure that can build up as a pro rider, and I’ve had that in the past at grand tours.
Richard Carapaz has put his hand up when it comes to being the big leader, so as long as I’m there to help him, that’s all I need to focus on. That means I can just focus on my job, and help someone win. There’s a really good vibe within the team and if we can get off to a good start we’ll just aim to keep that momentum going right through to the final week.
What also helps is the experience that we have in the team car. This year we’ve got Matteo Tosatto, Christian Knees, and Ollie Cookson as our directors. Toso raced 34 grand tours in his career, and I don’t think there are many guys who have done more.
I remember riding the 2011 Giro with him and he was already in the high 20s by that point. Bjarne Riis used to be in complete awe of the guy, and I don’t think that there are many scenarios that he’s not dealt with first hand.
We’ll also have our own team meeting in the next couple days, probably on Thursday. Obviously a performance plan has already been sent out and everyone’s role has been put down on paper, along with expectations.
There are no secrets to what everyone’s job is but we’ll still sit down and chat nevertheless. That sort of thing helps foster team spirit, too. We’ve got a great team at the race and this evening we’ll be sitting down for dinner as a group for the first time.
At the forefront of my mind though is my family. I’ll be focused on the race from the get-go, but each day I’ll look forward to those video calls with home. Right now though, I’m about to board my flight. Catch you in a few days.