Giro d'Italia

US pro roundtable: How the Giro d’Italia in October will be different

Brent Bookwalter and Joey Rosskopf answer the challenge of contesting the Giro d'Italia in October.

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The Giro d’Italia is in full-swing, and for the next three weeks, we will be covering every angle of the Italian race here on velonews.com. As an added bonus, there are eight American riders racing the Giro d’Italia, and they have lent us their expert perspective to help shed light on the event and all of its glorious trappings.

We have questions about the Giro, and our pro riders have the answers. So, every day throughout the Giro we will roll out a new Pro Roundtable, with expert perspective from two pro riders and one VeloNews editor. Today, the questions focus on the challenges to prepare for the Giro during the COVID-19 shutdown, and what is the biggest difference to having the Giro contested in October. 

What was the biggest challenge to the Giro preparation posed by the COVID-19 shutdown?

Brent Bookwalter: That was probably the general uncertainty of not having any timeline, not knowing what races would happen or what races I would do. The usual life as a reserve on the team was challenging. And beyond that, being a new parent, and learning that life during my race preparation was definitely influential in my race preparation and my Giro preparation. The lack of team camps and altitude time — I think this is the first year that I can remember when I didn’t do any altitude preparation. Part of that is due to the travel restrictions due to COVID-19 as well as the team’s budgets being crunched as a result of COVID-19. 

Joey Rosskopf: The initial challenge was just the uncertainty of it. Training in May is not that decisive, but at a point, you had to start training and preparing well for the season. For a long time, there was uncertainty about the whole thing and whether or not we’d be racing at all. If you’re doing the work for nothing it’s not so easy. If you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s not such a big ask anyway. You had to commit that it was going to happen, even though you couldn’t be sure of anything. Luckily, I enjoy training.

Fred Dreier: I’ll answer this from a media/coverage perspective. The two biggest challenges were the U.S. travel ban, and then the 10-day gap between the end of the Tour and the start of the Giro. Under normal circumstances, we would fly a reporter (or two) from the U.S. to Europe to help with the coverage of European racing. That’s not possible this year, so we’ve been reliant on our European contributors. But, the nature of the revised schedule, with the Tour, Giro, cobbled classics, and then Vuelta stacked up on top of each other has meant we’ve been unable to cover all of the bases with our European staff. So, the biggest challenge has been to create an entirely new travel and coverage model to accommodate the compressed schedule. And, as Andrew Hood and James Startt will tell you, this hasn’t left much of a window for time off or even time to hit up a laundromat. Hey, we’re doing it because it’s what we love!

What is the biggest difference you expect from the Giro in October vs the Giro in May?

Brent Bookwalter: Usually in May the weather can be a dramatic backdrop in the race but it is generally improving. But this year it will be the opposite, with the weather potentially getting worse and days getting shorter. That along with the untraditional preparation we have had, I think we may see even more surprises in the third week of the Giro, like we did in the Tour. 

Joey Rosskopf: It doesn’t make much difference to me. People are more worried about the weather, but even in May, we can have snow in the Alps, too. It’s just hit or miss in the day or week you get there, on what the weather is going to be like. It’s not like it comes after 10 months of racing, we only started in August, so long as you keep things in perspective, we’re not that deep into the racing. A few months of good racing and good training, it’s OK. It’s all the same for everyone. We’re here in a nice time of year, spring or fall, so it’s all about the same. If you were preparing well the whole summer if you were going to start any day.

Fred Dreier: I think we’ll see the two biggest differences in the third week. One will be the weather, and I expect the riders to experience colder temperatures and, yes, perhaps some snow on the big climbs above 1,500 meters. Whether or not the race will climb the Stelvio is still very much in question. The other big difference will be in the fitness of the GC favorites in week three. The annual schedule for these guys is so dialed in around training, racing, training camps, and recovery — all of which is aimed at helping them be strong in the third week of a grand tour. Since that ebb and flow has been ruined this year, my guess is that some guys who are looking strong at the moment will lose their legs in week three. It’s a storyline I’m definitely following over these next few stages.