Everyone knows Brandon McNulty has the engine to develop into a grand tour contender. A strong time trialist with improving climbing skills, the 22-year-old WorldTour sophomore is putting a return to the Giro d’Italia this season at the center of his 2021 goals.
The UAE-Emirates rider rode to 15th in his Giro debut last year — the best U.S. grand tour debut since Levi Leipheimer was third in the 2001 Vuelta a España — and McNulty is hoping for even more in 2021.
“I am hoping to build on the GC in the future,” McNulty told VeloNews‘ James Startt. “Coming in 15th was a decent grand tour, but I hope to move up to the top-10 this year.”
Last year, McNulty popped for two top-3 stage results, including second behind Peter Sagan and third in the middle time trial, and endured a brutal final week to arrive in Milano in 15th overall. He spent the winter at his U.S. base in Arizona, and worked with UAE coaches and staff to build his base and hone his climbing skills.
“For me, it was nice because I got an extra month at home to train. You can either do those races like Valencia, or you can train super-hard, so for me, it worked out nice to just be relaxing at home for an extra month,” he said. “I think I am riding well, and I’ll build for the rest of the year.”
James Startt photo gallery: Primož Roglič powers into lead at Paris-Nice
McNulty is making his season debut at Paris-Nice this week, and started Thursday’s stage third overall wearing the white jersey of the best young rider, at 37 seconds behind race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
“Things have been going good,” McNulty said at the start Thursday in Vienne. “The TT was good. I think [Wednesday] I was OK, but I am happy to be on the virtual podium on GC, and hopefully the mountain day will go better.
“For sure, the GC is always a goal, especially when there is a time trial involved, it’s always an aim,” McNulty said. “Paris-Nice is an objective, but it’s also the first race of the year, so it’s not the main objective. It’s a big race, but it’s always nice to do well.”
Following Thursday’s sprinter’s stage, McNulty faces a challenging transition stage Friday and the decisive summit finale at La Colmiane summit Saturday. Sunday’s rollercoaster in the climbs above Nice will decide the race. The Volta a Catalunya (March 22-28) will be another chance for McNulty to hone his GC race craft ahead of a return to the Giro.
“Catalunya will also be an objective, and then the Giro is the main objective for a grand tour,” he said. “I’m excited to see what I can do.”