Jeffry Louder will start his first Giro d'Italia on Saturday in support of BMC teammate and race favourite Cadel Evans. The American has had a slow start to his first full season racing in Europe, but says the measured approach has seen him arrive in the Netherlands fresh and ready to support his team leader.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm a little bit daunted, but I feel like the team has given me every chance to prepare and I've worked really hard all winter and all spring," Louder told Cyclingnews from Amsterdam on Wednesday. "Honestly, it's a dream come true for me to do a Grand Tour. I think if I weren't nervous it'd be strange, but I think I'm as prepared as I can be and I'll just take it day-by-day."
Louder's main objective at the Giro will be to protect Evans. The Australian has made little secret of his desire to with the race overall and will count on his teammates to guide him safely into the event's decisive third week. While he is eager to complete his first Grand Tour, Louder said his major objective will be to fulfill his role as a domestique.
"To me, the number one focus is on Cadel and I think the whole team is going in with that same desire. Personally, I want to finish the race, that's important to me, but I'm not going to compromise supporting Cadel just to finish the race," he said. "I'd be much more proud to go all out for two weeks, lose the plot in the third week and have Cadel win the race than hold back just to finish.
"Each day, once I've done my job, I'm going to take it easy and just try to get through to the next day. I love going in the breakaway and if that's my job on any given day I'm definitely going to capitalise on that opportunity. There's a lot of opportunity in a three-week race, but there's a lot of questions – I've never done a race over ten days so who knows what's going to happen."
Louder acknowledged that riding on the team of a race favourite adds an extra dose of pressure in his first Grand Tour, but was quick to throw a positive light on the responsibility.
"It adds a certain type of stress, but it also gives you a focus," he said. "It's great coming into a race with such an important leader and one who can really win the race. It gives the whole team a focus that not a lot of the teams get the luxury of, so I think that's a good thing."
Louder has already accompanied Evans to success this season at Flèche Wallonne last month. The team's first win of the year came amid a period of turmoil for the US squad, with Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio having been placed on non-active status ten days earlier, and the announcement of Thomas Frei's positive for EPO coming just a day after the Belgian race. Louder said that despite the distractions of the past month, morale within the squad remains high.
"If you had to time a race to have such success, that was perfect timing, because there was definitely things happening at that time that were not all positive for BMC. But we're moving on and we're moving ahead and the team is focused on racing well at the Giro."
While Louder has raced in European events with BMC since 2008, this season represents his first full year of competition outside of the United States. The 32-year-old played an active role in BMC's 2010 Classics campaign, but failed to finish at Milan-San Remo, Amstel Gold Race or Flèche Wallonne. Despite a level of frustration of those results, Louder has arrived in Amsterdam ready for the Giro.
"Things so far this year aren't going the way that I'd like. I'd love to be finishing every race and be up there in the top-ten every time, but even though I'm a rider who's done races all over the world and has a lot of experience, this year's been a new experience for me - doing big races week-in, week-out, and racing for riders who are there to be part of the finale," he said.
"The goal from the get-go was to be good for the Giro, so that's meant that I've had a slow start. I'm definitely fresher for that. I can't tell you that I've given myself confidence from the DNFs, but at the same time I've followed the plan through the winter to be as fresh as possible for the Giro."