Jumbo-Visma’s Steven Kruijswijk wasn’t supposed to race the Giro d’Italia. A shoulder injury at the Critérium du Dauphiné derailed his plans for the Tour de France, and the Dutch veteran is heading to Italy to make amends.
Kruijswijk, third in the 2019 Tour, returns to the Giro only for the second time since his breakout and heart-breaking 2016 performance that saw him flame-out in pink in the final week.
This year’s route could be eerily similar to how 2016 played out, but Kruijswijk said he’s physically ready and mentally fortified to take on the challenge to race for the maglia rosa.
“I have some good memories and lesser memories of the Giro. I’ve left that behind me, and I learned a lot from that Giro,” Kruijswijk said Thursday. “I’ve shown the last few years I’ve left that behind me and that I am still able to fight for the podium, like in the Tour de France last year.”
Kruijswijk, 33, lines up Saturday in Palermo as one of the favorites for overall victory in the Giro. The race is expected to be a clash between veteran captains such as Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).
Only Thomas, Nibali, and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) are among the starters who’ve won grand tours, so Kruijswijk is hoping his experience of hitting the Tour podium last year will help him against his rivals when it comes to managing his efforts.
“We won’t be that aggressive in the Giro from the beginning like the team was in the Tour,” he said. “We have a few young guys doing their first grand tour. We have to be realistic about what our goals are. We try to save ourselves a little bit in the beginning of the Giro.”
Kruijswijk said the 2020 Giro is book-ended by decisive challenges. He said he expects to find out if he has winning legs before leaving Sicily at the opening of the Giro, but said the final week of the race is among the most challenging he’s ever seen.
“The Giro starts quite hard in the beginning. After Sicily, we will know how good I am,” he said. “I’m hoping to do my best in this Giro, and I am motivated to see what I can do. The Giro wasn’t part of my plan, but I have had good preparation.
“I am looking to go well in the last week. It’s the toughest last week of a grand tour I’ve ever seen.”
Kruijswijk is confident if he’s back in position to win the Giro in the final week he won’t see a repeat of his implosion in the French Alps in 2016.