Cannondale-Drapac heads to Giro d'Italia without a designated leader

Cannondale-Drapac might not have a designated team leader for the Giro d'Italia, but directeur sportif Charly Wegelius is ready to let the riders explore their abilities and experiment without pressure.

"My hope is that they can enjoy that and try things, and experiment with things, and just push their limits without fear of losing anything or having to do any sort of defensive decision making," Wegelius said in the team's press release. "They can just see how it works out on the road and grow from it. I think that's pretty precious in the development of a rider."

Pierre Rolland announced his intention to go for Giro d'Italia and Tour de France stage wins this season, and has renounced the GC after finishing fourth overall in 2014. 

"My goal will be above all to win a stage," Rolland said. "Maybe a side classification can be interesting depending on the circumstances of racing."

Canadian Michael Woods will make his debut in the race with Cannondale-Drapac, and is one of the team's top climbers along with Rolland and Italian Davide Formolo, and will be trying to save something to show this in the race's final week.

"I am pumped to be doing this race," Woods said. "Last year I managed, through some bad decisions on my part and bad luck, to not start any Grand Tour on the calendar. This has made the significance of this one, to me, that much greater. Aside from the excitement, there is definitely some respect that I am storing up for that final week of racing and the process of getting there. I know crashes, illness and just a few off-days can derail even the best riders in the peloton, so I am making sure not to get too far ahead of myself."

Formolo, as an Italian, is especially excited to race the historic 100th edition of his country's Grand Tour.

"The Giro for me as Italian is something you cannot explain with words. It's just a dream," Formolo said. "It's the race an Italian kid dreams of growing up; it's the race we learn from. This parcours is something special, too. We start from one of the nicer places in the word, and then we head toward some of the most famous climbs in the sport. My ambition for the race is to let the Italian fans enjoy this amazing race and this amazing sport."

The team's next most experienced rider behind Rolland, Kristijan Koren, has raced the Tour de France seven times, but will be making his debut in the Giro, as will American Alex Howes.

"I've done a couple of Vueltas and a couple of Tours but I have this funny giddy feeling like this is my first 'real' Grand Tour," Howes said. "Growing up, the Giro always had this special — almost romantic — charm and appeal that no other race had. It was always the 'real' race. A race of not just legs but a competition of heart and spirit."

Another debutante is Hugh Carthy, who raced his first Grand Tour in last year's Vuelta a Espana. Wegelius has high hopes for the 22-year-old British rider.

"He's going to discover the Giro, and I hope he's going to find out what I suspect, which is that he's a prototype Giro rider," Wegelius said. "He's very resilient despite his young age. He's robust. I think he can give his best on steep climbs, which the Giro offers in a way the Tour doesn't. He's another one of the guys who, despite the fact that he's very talented and performing well, still needs space and time to find himself and to develop. I think that this is his first real rendezvous on that journey."

Joe Dombrowski, Tom-Jelte Slagter and Davide Villela round out the team with real opportunities to show their attacking styles.

"I want to try to win a stage and help the guys for the GC," Slagter said. "I like to race with those two goals because then you don't focus for three weeks on just one thing."

Wegelius thinks Dombrowksi has his best chance for stages in the third week, where last year he came into his own. "I think Joe got a glimpse last year of what he can do at the Giro, and for someone like Joe who has very high quality capabilities, but in very specific types of races, the Giro is always going to be attractive to him. When we get to the high altitude in the last week, he can do his best, so we need to wait for him until the last week."

Cannondale-Drapac for the 2017 Giro d'Italia: Davide Formolo, Joe Dombrowski, Pierre Rolland, Davide Villella, Mike Woods, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Kristijan Koren, Alex Howes, and Hugh Carthy.

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