Jumbo-Visma sprinter Dylan Groenewegen has admitted that he will be "under a magnifying glass" upon his return to racing at the upcoming Giro d'Italia, adding that choosing the race for his comeback was "a difficult choice" but the right one.
The Dutchman has been suspended since last year's Tour de Pologne after causing the crash which put Fabio Jakobsen in hospital with severe facial injuries during the sprint finish in Katowice. After initially planning a return for the Tour of Hungary, Groenewegen will instead line up in Turin on Saturday for his first race in 276 days.
Speaking ahead of what will be his debut at the Italian Grand Tour, Groenewegen said he's ready to start racing again, adding that his feeling is helped by Jakobsen having already made his return at last month's Tour of Turkey.
"It was initially the intention to start at the Tour of Hungary and then move on to the Tour of Norway, which has been postponed due to COVID-19," Groenewegen said in a team press release. "It's the best for me that I have several racing days now. It was a difficult choice to do the Giro, but I think it's the right choice.
"In any case, I feel ready to make my comeback and it helped a lot that Fabio is also back on his bike and that he did well in Turkey."
Groenewegen, who has four Tour de France stage victories to his name, said that he is physically on track to compete, but admitted questioning how he might cope mentally and how other riders would react to him being back in the peloton.
"Training is going well. I achieve a high level every time. But the question is how I will cope mentally in Italy. For the first time in nine months, I'm racing in a peloton. The question is how the other riders will react to me and I to them. I am not too concerned with peripheral issues. I will accept everybody's emotion anyway. I'm really looking forward to racing with the guys again.
"I think my presence will be under a magnifying glass in the near future. The team has pointed that out to me as well. We have to take it as it is and accept how everyone deals with it.
"If I feel good in the race I will definitely compete for the day's victories. I go to Italy full of motivation. I can't ask more of myself. In the second stage there is probably a sprint chance. If I can do well there, we will certainly try."
Groenewegen will be joined in Italy by team leader and GC hope George Bennett, who finished eighth in 2018, fellow sprinter David Dekker, climber Tobias Foss, and Edoardo Affini, Koen Bouwman, Paul Martens and Jos Van Emden.
He admitted that he's endured tough times since his suspension from racing, not least the death threats he received in the wake of the Pologne crash. He concluded, however, that he's raring to get back to racing again, having rediscovered his appetite for the sport in the past few months.
"All the messages from colleagues have done me good and have really dragged me through it. That made me feel good. I have also had difficult moments. First, of course, the incident with Fabio in Poland, a difficult pregnancy of my girlfriend, the health of our son, the death of my grandfather and the threats to my address: everything came together.
"Fortunately, my appetite for cycling has returned in recent months. The next step is to get back into the swing of things."
Ciao Italy! I’m looking forward to make my comeback and debut in this beautiful grand tour 🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/KkykBQBfvLApril 27, 2021
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