I'm Cadel's last man in the mountains

Sammy Sanchez in the time trial

Sammy Sanchez in the time trial (Image credit: Susanne Goetze)

I’m in good shape here, very pleased to be back in the Giro d’Italia, and it’s very motivating, too, because Cadel is clearly in good shape. In [the Giro di] Trentino he was at his most aggressive, constantly on the attack and able to take home both a stage victory and the overall win.

That kind of success immediately has a galvanizing effect for the entire team, it moves everybody up a level, and it makes us want to get down to racing and start to see where we are relative to our rivals and what we can do.

A lot of these early stages now are ones which you just want to get through, avoid the crashes, not suffer too much in the bad weather and take it from there. Just get into a routine, really.

I’m not sure what we can do in Friday’s team time trial, but we’re not ruling anything out, we’ll be giving it everything. We know that some teams have a real chance of winning and I think we should be up there in the top four or so. There’s also Giant-Shimano, Lotto [Belisol], Belkin, Orica-GreenEDGE, Sky...they’re also sure to do very well. But we can be up there in the fight.

For me this is the first time ever, too, that I go into a Grand Tour purely working for another rider, so it’s the start of a new phase in my career. This time I won’t be the rider with the responsibility [of getting a top result in gc], instead the final result will belong to Cadel. But everybody on the team takes part in the hard work of putting him in the best position to get that result.

My job is a very responsible one, because I’ll maybe be the last man there for Cadel, so the minimum requirement is that I have to be at a similar level in terms of form, staying with him for as long as I can.

I have done 21 days of racing this year prior to here and that’s ideal, I’ve done them all at a very similar kind of pace, with my last day’s racing in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Racing at the right kind of pace was what worried me the most coming into this Giro and that’s actually gone well.

This is a beautiful place, but it’s been difficult in terms of the weather. Yesterday [Wednesday] we got really soaked training, today [Thursday] we had to get up really early to be sure we weren’t going get wet again and tomorrow, in theory, it shouldn’t be too bad in terms of rain.

Having a wet start to a Grand Tour is a real problem, above all because you get so many crashes anyway when you’ve got so many in-form riders, all of them really raring to go and in a very big bunch going at top speed down very narrow roads. Add in the rain and it’s dangerous for the race itself, because one of the top names can end up going home early because of a crash. Nobody wants that - neither the team, nor the riders, nor the race nor the fans.

My one big regret so far is that I haven’t been able to try any local food or drink - we’ve got our own cook here and it’s not been possible. I was lucky to race in the Tour of Britain a couple of years ago and the areas we went through then and those we’re seeing here in Northern Ireland are very similar to my home region, to Asturias. It’s not as mountainous maybe, but it’s equally pastoral. Lots of cows.

I get the impression people here got a very similar attitude to life to the people from Asturias, too - they like good, solid home food and drink. And I really like the way that they’ve been able to bring the Giro to a place like here, somewhere a Grand Tour has never been before, so that cycling can go on expanding into new markets and gaining new fans. It’s what we need as a sport.

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The BMC Racing Team rider outlines how he will be supporting Cadel Evans in the Australian’s bid to take the Giro d’Italia