Just like the other teams, Phonak has got together in southern Belgium to prepare for the Giro d’Italia, which starts on Saturday in Seraing, near Liège. UCI controls, the official team presentation, training and recovery measures are all part of the riders' schedules in the time leading up to the event. Phonak's biggest hopes for the tour are pinned on Victor Hugo Peña, but good stage results are also expected of Axel Merckx, Martin Elmiger, Gregory Rast or Fabrizio Guidi.
Guidi, the only Italian rider in Phonak's line-up for the Giro, was both lucky and unlucky when he crashed at the Tour de Romandie last Friday, April 28: He walked away with just a scare and bruises on his back, which forced him to withdraw in the subsequent stage. But his start at the Giro is not at risk. "I'm in good shape and I hope the pain will be gone by next Saturday," he said. "I intend to win a stage."
"Finding the right man at the right moment," that's what directeur sportif Adriano Baffi considers to be the biggest challenge for the Phonak team at the Giro d’Italia. Based on the results at the Tour de Romandie, Baffi is somewhat cautious in terms of expectations for Victor Hugo Peña. But Juan Fernandez, who acted as directeur sportif at the Tour de Romandie, said, "If Victor Hugo Peña is spared illness and injury at the Giro d’Italia, then I believe he's capable of a top five spot." As a Belgian, Axel Merckx is also especially motivated, and Baffi hopes that Elmiger, Rast or Guidi will also be successful if an opportunity presents itself.
Baffi has already won six Giro stages. As an active rider, the tour in his own country has always been the highlight in his season schedule. In the meantime, the Giro d’Italia has become something of a routine for Baffi, but he knows that the it is a great incentive for his riders. "On 28 May the second largest and therefore also the second most important tour of the year will be decided in Milan," he said. "The spectators will like the difficult parcours, but it will be less popular with the riders," added the Italian with a laugh.