Giro d'Italia

US pro roundtable: Who has been most impressive in 2020

Joe Dombrowski and Brent Bookwalter share how they endured the COVID-19 lockdown and who's been most impressive so far this season.

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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 any hard moments or surprises they faced with COVID-19, and who has been the most impressive elite men riders in 2020. 

Who is the most impressive racer thus far in 2020?

Brent Bookwalter: Most impressive thus far? I don’t know, I’m not that impressed with anyone these days, haha. There are lots of strong riders out there, but Tadej Pogačar’s Tour de France performance, and how he put that victory together over three weeks in his first time at the Tour de France, well, that’s pretty mind-blowing. So he’d get my vote.

Joe Dombrowski: Well Pogačar was obviously really great in the Tour, but also I would say Marc Hirschi. He was a real standout in the Tour and then he won Fleche-Wallonne. Pogačar was a bit of a known entity, even if we didn’t think he would necessarily win the Tour. But Hirschi, wow, that [win] was a real revelation.

Andrew Hood: Wout van Aert has been an absolute beast. The way he was setting tempo up the HC climbs at the Tour de France was simply impressive. Many were wondering if it’s too good to be true, but a rider like that can do his work, peel off, and recover for the next stage. If you train for it and have the right motor, it’s possible. The fact that he was so active in the sprints was a bit of a surprise. I thought the team was taking unnecessary risks after he won his first stage with one of their strongest riders in the Tour. One crash and the team would have lost its strongest rider. Also, Sepp Kuss was absolutely incredible, confirming himself as one of the strongest climbers in the world. The future is bright for the man from Durango.

What was your most surreal moment and/or vivid memory of the COVID-19 shutdown?

Brent Bookwalter: My most surreal moment would have been those panic moments early in the lockdown. I was in Spain with my wife Jamie and our newborn Waylon. He was only six weeks old and we were trying to make the call if we would stay in Spain or return to the States. Waylon didn’t have a passport, and the U.S. was making all kinds of restrictions and making warnings that if you didn’t get back now you might not get back at all. That’s when we realized the severity of it and started to look at each other to figure out if we were trying to get out of here or not. The whole process of getting back to the U.S., which Andrew Hood documented really well in a VeloNews article, was just really surreal.

Joe Dombrowski: I live in the heart of Nice in the Old Port and I remember at the beginning when the French Cycling Federation stated there was no outdoor riding. I thought that was a bit extreme, so I went out. But I rode barely one kilometer from my apartment and there was a siren behind me and the police pulled me over. They were like, ‘You know that the FFC [French Cycling Association] said there was no outdoor riding?’ I played the belligerent American and said, ‘Yeah but I am not French and am not a member of the FFC.’ Let’s just say that that didn’t go over too well as they escorted me back to my apartment and fined me. At home, in Nice, I have a garden, which is quite rare. I would put my trainer out in the garden, but France was in a very restrictive lockdown and it was just really strange, really draining. There were very limited hours when we could even walk outside, and that is one of the reasons I went back to the U.S. because, well, at least being able to ride my bike outside gave me some sense of normalcy, even though nothing was normal.

Andrew Hood: It was like living through one of those dystopian moments from some HBO series. I rode out the lockdown in Spain, and could not go outside for three months. Luckily, we live with a nice terrace set against a park, so we had a lot of natural light and could hang out on the deck. One blessing was we had never seen “Game of Thrones,” so we binged the entire series, chewing up a good two to three hours each night for nearly a month. Then it was on to “The Sopranos,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Peaky Blinders.” We have “The Wire” in storage for the second wave. Winter is coming.