When Team Sky'sBen Swift and his teammates roll down the start ramp in Friday’s Giro d'Italia team time trial, the 26-year-old Briton will be going back to his Grand Tour roots.
The Giro d’Italia, back in 2009, was Swift’s first three-week stage race, and the then Katusha rider showed he could get into the thick of the action from the word go. On stage two to Trieste, he finished third behind Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Cavendish - for a first year pro, a seriously impressive result.
Since then Swift has raced the Vuelta twice and the Tour once, but in a five year career he has not returned to the Giro, until he found out in April that he would be back in the Italian Grand Tour. Racing the roads of Ireland represent another return to his younger riding days, too.
“I did the junior Tour of Ireland, so not a lot of experience racing here but to be honest the roads look a lot like the ones back home,” the Rotherham-born rider told Cyclingnews.
“It’s hard, heavy going roads, quite draining, the weather seems to be pretty much the same. So I should hopefully be all right here.”
Form-wise, after a very strong spring in which he took stages both in the Vuelta al País Vasco and in the Coppi e Bartali, as well as a third place in Milan - San Remo, Swift says he is “pretty much” firing on all cylinders.
“I’m coming off some good form in País Vasco, the Ardennes didn’t go so well but to be honest they weren’t really going to suit me. I’ve had a couple of good weeks of training and hopefully I’m still on an upward trajectory here, and although I love the big bunch sprints, I’m really going...
Orica-AIS rider loses leader's jersey; happy to force rivals to defend
Just one day after claiming a thrilling sprint victory over rival Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) in the inaugural Friends Life Women's Tour of Britain, Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) is fine accepting the role of hunter after slipping to fourth overall, seven seconds behind new race leader Rossella Ratto (Estado de Mexico-Faren).
Italy's Ratto beat fellow Italian Susanna Zorzi (Astana) and Vos in Bedford, after an aggressive 118.5km ride which in Hinckley. Ratto also captured the best young rider's jersey, while Vos took the lead in the points competition and Sharon Laws (UnitedHealthcare) kept her climber's jersey.
"We obviously wanted to do our best to try and keep the yellow jersey," said Johansson, currently the UCI top ranked women's cyclist. "I knew today was going to be important with intermediate sprints and unfortunately I was not able to take any seconds today."
Johansson told Cyclingnews after the race that the decision to bridge the gap and maintain control of the leader's jersey might have been left too late in the race.
"We thought we had things under control and had made the decision not to ride until the final 20 kilometres," she said. "The lead group were on one minute and unfortunately we do not have radio communication and have to rely on the motorbikes. All of the sudden we see the gap is 1:55 which all happened really fast.
"We then put three girls up and started riding but we started a little too late to reel them back."
With three stages remaining, Johansson says the pressure is now on the other teams to defend and win stages.
"I don't think losing the jersey is necessarily a bad thing as it gives us a bit more freedom to race again," she said. "Defending a jersey is totally different than...
Italian climber aims for top 5 finish at Giro d’Italia
Few riders in the Giro d’Italia peloton have a range of interests quite as eclectic as those of Domenico Pozzovivo. The man from Basilicata in the very south of Italy is an economics graduate, a keen pianist, a linguist and, intriguingly, something of a weather enthusiast.
Idiosyncratic hobbies are nothing new in cycling – former Euskaltel rider Roberto Laiseka once famously listed his favourite pastime as “staring at the sea” – but Pozzovivo’s interest in weather forecasting is put to practical use at Ag2r-La Mondiale. Such is the frequency with which he scans specialist websites that Pozzovivo’s directeurs sportifs apparently confer with him almost as a matter of routine before delivering their team briefing on the eve of a race.
The variable conditions in Ireland have proven a challenge even for Pozzovivo’s forecasting powers – frequent showers were interspersed with surprisingly sunny spells throughout the day in Belfast on Thursday – but he reckons that the rain will hold off for Friday evening’s opening team time trial.
“It’s very hard to predict here, but I think I can stick my neck out and say that tomorrow evening we’ll probably be racing without rain,” Pozzovivo told Cyclingnews at Belfast’s city hall on Thursday. “But then Saturday is going to be the worst day. I think it will probably rain for almost the entire stage.”
Pozzovivo enters this Giro on something of a high after a solid spring campaign that concluded with notable showings at the Giro del Trentino, where he finished 2nd overall, and at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he took 5th. He lines up with the stated aim of landing a place in the top five on the general classification and winning a mountain stage. Before reaching his favoured terrain, however, Pozzovivo must survive the...
Daniel Alexander Jaramillo Diaz has raced only a handful of days in the US during his brief career, but the 23-year-old Colombian has already grabbed headlines for his Jamis-Hagens Berman squad by winning the mountains jersey at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and taking two stage wins last week at the UCI 2.2 Tour of the Gila in New Mexico.
Jaramillo won both Gila stages that ended with uphill finishes, including conquering the infamous Gila Monster on the final day. He also took home the mountains classification and the competition for best young rider at the New Mexican tour.
Jaramillo wore the Gila's red leader's jersey into the stage 3 time trial, a 26km test that included two relatively short climbs and corresponding descents. But he surrendered nearly two minutes to stage winner Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) during the stage and lost the overall lead to eventual race winner Carter Jones (Optum Pro Cycling). Jaramillo's teammate, Gregory Brenes, finished second overall at the race, just two seconds behind Jones.
Although five years his junior, Jaramillo is on a similar pace as former Jamis rider Janier Acevedo, a fellow Colombian who stormed the US circuit last year and now rides for the Garmin-Sharp WorldTour team.
This season marks Jaramillo's fourth at the UCI Continental level, but it's his first time racing full time outside of Colombia. Jaramillo rode for Gobernation de Antioquia-Indeportes team in 2011 and 2012. He moved from that team, which is sponsored by the regional government where he lives, onto the Colombia-Coldeportes team in 2013. Jaramillo signed with Jamis-Hagens Berman in the off-season.
Cyclingnews submitted the following questions for Jaramillo to Jamis-Hagens...
Tinkoff-Saxo man aims for top 10 finish in Trieste
The troika of Irish stages may have been the motivating factor for Nicolas Roche to line up at the Giro d'Italia for the first time since 2007 but the Tinkoff-Saxo man enters the race with the long game in mind. After landing fifth place at last year's Vuelta a España, Roche is targeting a top 10 finish in Trieste, although he acknowledged that he is part of a large echelon of riders with a similar ambition.
"The nice thing about the Giro or any three-week race is that there are always two or three who are there for the podium and then 20 other riders who are capable of doing anything between fourth and 20th," Roche said. "There's always somebody who has bad day, somebody who blows up during the Giro. So it's hard to say where I'll end up. Hopefully in the top 10, that would be nice. I'd be disappointed if I'm not there."
Roche's only previous Giro experience also marked his first three-week stage race as a raw 22-year-old and he reached Milan in 122nd place, over thee hours down on the winner, Danilo Di Luca. Although he has amassed a steady sequence of results since then at the Tour de France and Vuelta, Roche acknowledged that the style of racing at the Giro poses a very different challenge.
"I haven't done the Giro since 2007, so I'm a bit inexperienced in that sense. It's raced very differently to the Tour or the Vuelta, so I'll have to adapt to this race as I don't know it very well," he said. "I don't have points of reference. I don't know the climbs because I've never done them apart from the Stelvio and a couple of others."
Roche flitted seamlessly between English, French and Italian when speaking with the press in Belfast ahead of this Giro, a reminder that he spent time living in Varese in the past, and so he is not wholly unfamiliar with the terrain ahead of him.
Present and past Australian time trial champions Durbridge and Hepburn ready for Belfast
It is a tale of two time triallists at this year's 97th edition of the Giro d'Italia. The similarities between Orica-GreenEdge teammates – and fellow Australians – Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn are many, including their goal to win the opening stage team time trial in Belfast.
"I haven't really thought past the team time trial to be honest," Durbridge told Cyclingnews. "It is such a big focus for us, it's all I am thinking about at the moment."
For Durbridge, it's his second crack at the Giro d'Italia after an impressive debut last year that saw him place sixth on the 54.8km stage-eight time trial from Gabicce Mare to Saltara which finished with a tough climb. Compatriot and eventual third-place race finisher Cadel Evans (BMC) finished seventh on the stage, four seconds behind Durbridge.
"I am significantly more relaxed than last year," said Durbridge. "Coming into my first Grand Tour last year, I did not know what to expect and was really nervous and had all sorts of emotions going around."
"Now, I know what to expect at the end of the day it is just another bike race that happens to be three weeks long. I've come into this year's Giro in much better condition as I came in last year quite tired. But I have prepared well and I am ready."
The Giro d'Italia was not original on Hepburn's race program this year, but about a month ago he realised there was an opportunity to go to the Giro d'Italia to ride support in the team time trial. It's his first career start at a Grand Tour and while nervous, like Durbridge, has his sights firmly set on the opening stage.
"At the moment all I am thinking about is the opening team time trial as the team has some pretty...
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A look at the best of the team efforts against the clock
With this year's Giro d'Italia beginning with a team time trial, Cyclingnews has gone through the archives of the last 30 years to present a gallery of past races against the clock.
There was a lack of team time trials in early-to-mid 2000's although in recent years, it has made a comeback with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) and Salvatore Pucci (Team Sky) all enjoying a stint in the maglia rosa after a team time trial. Last year it was Team Sky who won the TTT on the island of Ischia.
The TTT is 21.7km in length and starts at in the shadow of the "Titanic Belfast" centre with the finishing straight of the course out the front of the Belfast City Hall.