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Warbasse: We're one of the biggest hitters for a Classics team

ROCCARASO ITALY OCTOBER 11 Larry Warbasse of The United States and Team Ag2R La Mondiale Giovanni Visconti of Italy and Team Vini Zabu KTM Breakaway during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 9 a 207km stage from San Salvo to Roccaraso Aremogna 1658m girodiitalia Giro on October 11 2020 in Roccaraso Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Larry Warbasse on the attack in the 2020 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Now back home in the United States, Larry Warbasse is busy building up the miles as he trains ahead of next season. The American thought that his career might be coming to an end this year, but AG2R Citroën offered him a two-year extension and now Warbasse has his sights on winning Grand Tour stages in 2021 and racing with one of the most impressive Classics lineups in the WorldTour.

Cyclingnews: Larry, you’re back in the US now after a whirlwind season that involved lockdowns, contract worries, a Giro d’Italia, and a positive test for COVID-19, but how does it feel to be back home?

Larry Warbasse: I’ve been training for about six weeks now and it’s not going too bad. It’s been a bit of a slower start than previous years because I finished so late and because there’s no Tour Down Under but it’s been a crazy year, that’s for sure.

CN: The season started for you back in January at the Tour Down Under, but can you break down the year you’ve had into blocks?

LW: I had built up to Australia and I was looking forward to the Giro and riding with Romain Bardet in May. We did Australia, and while it didn’t go exactly as planned it was still a nice experience. Then I was at the UAE Tour and everyone saw what happened there [ed. the race was cut short after an outbreak of COVID-19 while teams were forced to remain in their hotels for several days]. That was a big scare at the time because there was so much unknown. No one knew if we’d be stuck there or not and it was only for a couple of days, but that was a really stressful few days for most of us. We realized that this would derail our spring racing and sure enough that’s exactly what happened.

I came back to France and then went to altitude to get ready for the next block of racing but the next block of racing did not happen. I realized it wasn’t going in a good way and managed to get a ticket home to the US.

CN: How did you feel going home at that point because so much of the season was still up in the air and you were still to sign a deal for 2021?

LW: That was a big shock for me as I haven’t spent much time during the season in the US since being a pro or even since around high school. I had nothing else to do so just invested everything that I had into cycling and I tried to use it as an opportunity to change myself as a rider. I trained the house down and probably trained harder than I’ve ever trained before. When I came back to Europe I was at a higher level. The Giro was probably the highlight for me and it was nice to feel good in the races but I forget about the part when I tested positive for COVID because that was another bit that was annoying.

CN: Did you really believe that your career could have come to an end at the turn of the year?

LW: I said to myself that if this was the end of my career, then I’ve had a good run. There was no reason for me to think that I would be spared from the same trials and tribulations as some of the other people affected by the pandemic. So many people lost their jobs and I thought if that’s what happens to me, then that’s what happens. Absolutely I felt that I might not have a ride for next year. Half the teams were looking like they were going to disappear. It was actually when I was back in the US that I got a call from the team and they said they wanted to renew my contract. That was awesome and such a nice show of confidence. It made me want to really give my best for the team to repay their support and faith in me.

CN: Then you came back and raced in August and enjoyed a decent block of racing.

LW:  Well the heat in those early races really crushed me, but at Tirreno-Adriatico, I really found my legs and it was a different racing situation for me because I wasn’t used to being there in the finals. I made a few mistakes because I forgot what that was like but I was happy with how that race went and how the Giro went as well.

CN: There are lots of changes for next year with Bardet and several others leaving, while at the same time Ben O’Connor, Greg Van Avermaet, and Bob Jungels are coming on board. It’s a dramatic roster change.

LW: It’s really exciting. Romain is an awesome guy and I’m glad that I had the pleasure of racing with him. We’re still friends and we’ll still train together at times as he comes down to Nice at times but it’s a total change, almost of the spirit of the team, because now they’re going all-in for the Classics. With Greg, Oliver [Naesen], and Bob it’s going to be one of the biggest hitters for a Classics team. That’s going to be cool to see, and hopefully, I’ll get to do some races with those guys. Not Flanders or Roubaix but I hope to race with them from time to time and be part of it. It’s a cool team with a lot to race for. It will be really cool to see and hopefully, they can give the likes of QuickStep a run for their money.

CN: What role will you take on with the team next year because you’re now one of their most experienced climbers?

LW: We have quite a few climbers leaving so I think that I might be a bit more senior in the team now, so maybe I’ll take more of mentorship role for some of the younger guys. I’ll have more of an open schedule and I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know how much my role will change but I’m really looking forward to the season. I think that I’ll start in Valencia and then head to the Giro later but I should find out my full plan later this week.

CN: What are your personal goals for the coming season?

LW: Winning a stage of the Giro would be my biggest aim or winning some other races, which would be nice. I wasn’t too far off that level this year and if I had gotten into a few more good scenarios then maybe I would have had a chance. I think that building on this year, that would be my biggest goal. If I can try and win another WorldTour race that would be nice. Winning races is just another level of satisfaction.