Deceuninck-QuickStep neo-pro James Knox is hoping to make his Grand Tour debut at the Giro d’Italia in May. At the moment, nothing is set in stone for the 23-year-old Brit who is in just his second year as a professional, but he’s working hard to make it onto the start line in Bologna.
"It’s not 100 per cent at the moment; things can change, but I’m going to keep working towards that and we’ll see what happens," Knox told Cyclingnews and Het Nieuwsblad. "I’m not going to cry about it if I don’t go. I’m hoping that I’m going to be good, though."
Knox is already making a case for himself this week at the UAE Tour, his third race of the season after the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Road Race. The team have come focused on the sprints with Elia Viviani, but Knox has been allowed to work for himself on the mountain finishes. He showed his form by beating two Grand Tour winners on the summit finish of Jebel Hafeet.
He says that the performances of his peers Egan Bernal (Team Sky) and Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto Soudal) show that it’s possible to come out of the under 23 category and hit the ground running, but he’s keeping his feet on the ground, too.
"It still feels like they’re in a completely different league to me so I’m not getting carried away. I was just clinging on for everything that I had on Jebel Hafeet, while those guys were playing around, attacking, and I didn’t have the legs to anything like that," he said.
"There were a few moments where I was able to get onto the back of the group and Valverde was there. He’s a hero of mine and to be racing with him and even close to him on a summit finish was a really nice feeling.
"There’s a long way to go to be in that league, but I think coming from the under 23s at a decent level and seeing other guys progress like Bernal or even Bjorg Lambrecht, it’s not too uncommon for guys to come out of the under 23s and start performing really well right away. I still hoped that I could perform like this and it’s nice to be able to do it."
Knox cut his teeth at Team Wiggins in 2016 and 2017, putting in promising results such as second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège Espoirs and eighth at the Tour de l’Avenir in his second year with the team. His promise was enough to garner a contract offer from Patrick Lefevere’s QuickStep team, and Knox was not going to turn it down.
"I guess it was a little bit different but when you get an offer from QuickStep you’re not going to say no," said Knox. "Everyone speaks English so well you don’t really feel too different and it’s such a friendly international vibe to be honest. I think that’s the thing with being on QuickStep, there are 15 or 16 nationalities and when you’re part of that environment it’s really special."
After the UAE Tour, Knox also hopes to ride the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Romandie, ahead of his provisional start at the Giro d’Italia. Aside from performing well, he is hoping to gain as much experience as he can and learn from riders such as Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels.
"I don’t really have anything specific, I’m just trying to progress. There are going to be times when I’m working for the strong guys on the team like Julian and Bob. Bearing that in mind, on a personal level, I just want to take what opportunities that I can," said Knox.
"There are a lot of races [that I like]. Some of the Classics have a special place in my heart because they’re one-days like San Sebastián, Lombardia, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I’ve not done a Grand Tour yet, so that’s different. I think that they’re amazing but they’re also kind of hard work, racing for three weeks, it’s a different kind of enjoyable."