Christian Vande Velde kicked off the 2008 Giro d'Italia in dramatic fashion for Slipstream-Chipotle's Grand Tour debut, donning the race's maglia rosa after crossing the finish line at the head of a winning team time trial effort. As Vande Velde and his Garmin-Slipstream teammates face the pressure of repeating the feat at the centenary Giro, the feeling of last year's performance still resonates.
"There was a lot of emotion flowing. We were the underdogs and that's the perfect situation going into the race," Vande Velde told Cyclingnews. "It was just a fun time. I remember stopping after the race knowing that we did the best we could and if anyone beat us hats off to them."
Being a part of the Giro's centenary edition provides an additional appeal for Vande Velde. "In 2003 it was the 100th anniversary of the Tour and I missed that so I'm really excited about being a part of the 100th anniversary of the Giro. It's just a little bit different, starting with the team time trial again and ending in Rome. It's going to be a spectacular race with the long time trial and the short mountain stage."
Vande Velde has opted to utilise technology to preview the 2009 Giro route.
"I haven't seen anything first-hand, but I've looked at it through Google Maps and Google Earth. That time trial in Cinque Terre looks unbelievable. I don't think anyone knows what's going to come of it. It's going to be a really cool race from the fan's perspective watching it on television."
Approaching the Giro d'Italia, 32-year-old Vande Velde won the first road race (non-TT or classification win) of his professional career at Paris-Nice and followed that performance up with a third place finish at Vuelta al País Vasco's stage four.
"I've been training really well. I've been focused on time trialling and on my climbing. I feel more confident and more rested than I did last year.
"I didn't race as much as I did last year. The Tour of Georgia didn't even exist this year so I wasn't able to do that and I opted not to do the Ardennes Classics. I stayed home and trained so I could be with my family because these next few months are going to be very long."