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Barta is riding for Movistar this season and is supporting Alejandro Valverde in his final appearance at the Italian grand tour. Valverde is sitting just outside the top-10 after a couple of difficult days in the mountains earlier this week.
The 26-year-old Barta, who is also riding his first three-week race since 2022, is enjoying the unity that working for a single rider has brought.
“It’s the first time in my career riding for someone in the GC and he’s just a class act. Maybe Wednesday [stage 17 to Lavarone – ed] wasn’t the best for him, but he keeps a positive mood, and he always looks for the positives. He’s really a great guy to ride for,” Barta told VeloNews.
“As you saw [on Tuesday], he can take charge himself but he’s not some super-demanding guy who says I need this, this, and this. He trusts his teammates and he’s really good at reading the race and telling you what you need to do.”
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Barta has been providing some support in the early mountains during the Giro with other teammates taking over on the later climbs. Attending to a team leader has been a new experience and it has been a learning curve for the Idaho native.
“You have to take it day by day and stay calm, that’s the main thing that I’ve been noticing. For me, it’s easy when you have someone like Valverde,” he said. “If something happens you need to go right away but it’s more about staying calm and taking your time, whether it’s coming back from a puncture or just trusting that the team can do it.”
Barta has never ridden the Giro d’Italia before with both of his previous grand tour experiences coming at the Vuelta a España in 2019 and 2020. He rode for the CCC Team on both occasions and the squad folded soon after the 2020 Vuelta, leaving riders to use the Spanish race as a shop window for a contract.
From CCC Team to learning Spanish
The environment at CCC is very different to what he has experienced so far with Movistar at the Giro d’Italia.
“In 2019, I was with CCC and that was my first grand tour. We had a group that was going for stages and didn’t have such high aims in that race,” Barta said. “In 2020, everyone was fighting for a contract in that grand tour. I think before we started in that grand tour, I don’t think anyone had a contract before we started so it was kind of everyone for themselves.
“It has been a lot different riding as a team, and I have to say with Movistar it’s really nice because you always have one objective for the team, and you go for that.”
Joining Movistar has come with another challenge of learning Spanish. While some of the riders have a small amount of English, everything within the team is conducted in its native language, from the race radio to the dinner table conversations.
Barta has been getting to grips with it and he used Movistar’s Netflix documentary “El dia menos Pensado” to brush up on some of the cycling lingo that he would need to know.
“I’ve come to Italy to learn Spanish,” Barta joked. “It’s a work in progress for sure, but I understand most of what I need to do in the race and that’s the most important thing but obviously socially it’s nice to be able to speak more Spanish because that’s always spoken. They’re working on it and it just takes time.
“This winter, I had already watched the Netflix show before but I rewatched it just to get a better grip on some of the phrases I needed to know.”
Though Barta has been largely working for Valverde throughout this Giro d’Italia, he will have an opportunity to ride for his own ambitions in the time trial at the end of the race.
Barta has come close to winning a grand tour time trial in the past, losing out to Primož Roglič by a single second in the Vuelta’s mountain time trial in 2020. He struggled in the Giro’s first time trial in Hungary and he’s hoping for better fortunes in Sunday’s ride around Verona.
“It’s the last day so we’ll see how the legs are after two hard days before but I’m definitely looking at it as an objective for sure,” he said. “For me, it’s a better time trial because it’s not so explosive. The first time trial was ok, but it’s really not a course that suits me super well so I think this one will be better.
“Earlier in the race, I was struggling with my allergies and yesterday I was the first day that I felt like I could breathe, and I was much better on the bike. I think it’s in a positive place now.”