One of the most eagerly awaited debutants at this year’s Giro d’Italia, Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) has failed to make an impact in the frenetic bunch sprints thus far, but he is determined to draw lessons from his first taste of the corsa rosa.
10th place in Horsens on stage 3 is all Guardini has to show for his travails at this point, and the 22-year-old readily admits that he has struggled to cope with the various obstacles thrown up by the Giro’s mass finishes, as crashes and late climbs have repeatedly thwarted his attempts to execute a clean sprint.
“I was a bit unlucky at the start of the Giro in Denmark because the crashes in the stages there held me up,” Guardini told Cyclingnews in Seravezza. “Then the other three sprint stages turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. The long stages and especially the ones with tough finales like at Montecatini Terme and Fano have been hard. I’m still struggling with those to be honest.”
Stage 11 was something of a double milestone for Guardini: it marked the first time that he had taken part in a race longer than ten days, while the 255 kilometres from Assisi to Montecatini Terme was the longest distance he had ever covered on a bike.
“Yesterday’s stage seemed more like a classic than a regular day in a stage race, but I realise that these are the races that count and I’m happy to gain the experience,” said Guardini, who lost contact on the final circuit over the climb of the Vico.
At the end of the opening week of the Giro, Guardini hit some unwanted headlines when his frustrated directeur sportif told Gazzetta dello Sport that he needed to start heeding his advice or else leave the team. Guardini smiled wryly as he was reminded of Luca Scinto’s timely invective.
“Let’s say that some people interpreted his words a little bit differently,” Guardini said. “He gave me a bit of criticism to wake me up a little bit, to bring out the character that’s inside me. It’s a bit like what he did with Gatto at the Giro last year. Gatto had his ear chewed for a week and then he wound up winning a stage at Tropea. I think this is Luca’s way of working, and he manages to motivate his riders and get the best out of us.”
Scinto has made no secret of his desire to improve Guardini’s endurance and climbing, and his young charge has been put on a heavy diet of racing miles so far this season. The youngster began his campaign at the Tour de San Luis in January, with scarcely any let up since, with some wondering if he had arrived at the Giro already over-raced.
“No, I’m a rider who likes to race,” Guardini said. “In January, I’d rather do a stage race somewhere warm than train in Italy in the cold, especially this year as there was a lot of snow. It’s true that I did some tough races early on, but always in good weather, and it certainly hasn’t affected my Giro.”
Guardini estimates that he has two more chances to test himself in a bunch sprint in the Giro, at Cervere on Friday and at Vedelago in his home region of the Veneto next week. “The aim is to succeed in doing a clean sprint between now and the end of the Giro. Tomorrow the start is hard but the run-in is flat so in theory there shouldn’t be too many difficulties in the finale, so I think that they should be better suited to me.”
Beyond contesting that elusive sprint, Guardini is harbouring a second, but no less important ambition: to reach Milan. After dicing with the time limit on the road to Porto San’Elpidio last week, he is aware that he will have his work cut out in the Dolomites.
“I was in the Cavedish gruppetto but Alex Rasmussen and I didn’t think they’d be able to make it inside the time limit, so we did it at our own rhythm and got there with five minutes to spare,” he said. “It’s not easy when you get dropped after 90km and you have to do another 130km in the gruppetto. But I want to finish the race and honour it, even if I come last and wind up as the maglia nera. That’s not a problem. Finishing the Giro would be a great thing in and of itself.”