The American GC specialist crashed out of both the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Giro d’Italia and vowed never to return but after a strong end to his 2011 season in which he came second at the Tour of Colorado, Vande Velde has reconsidered his options.
Vande Velde will be part of a strong Garmin team at the Giro, with Ryder Hesjdal leading the team’s overall aspirations and Tyler Farrar on the hunt in the sprints. Dan Martin is likely to miss the Giro and be saved for the Tour de France where Vande Velde, Hesjdal, Farrar and Tom Danielson will all ride.
“Next year I’m going to start out with Tours of Majorca and Oman. After that I’ll be in Spain for some races. Then it’s the Classics and then I’ll go back and try my hand at the Giro,” Vande Velde told Cyclingnews from his training base in California.
“I know I’m going back on myself because I said I wouldn’t do the Giro again, and I hope I’m not going to be putting myself in harm's way but I’ve come to realise that my body responds really well after a Grand Tour, and you could see that after this year’s Tour de France.”
“This year I had some back luck in the Tour with early crashes but I also missed that top end that I’ve had before and racing three weeks really gives that to me.” The American finished 17th overall.
Vande Velde won’t just be using the Italian Grand Tour to train though, and will be given specific goals. Having played a critical role in helping secure top 10 spots for Danielson in both the 2010 Vuelta and 2011 Tour de France, Vande Velde will turn his attention to assisting Hesjdal. The Canadian had a breakthrough season in 2010, winning a stage in the Tour of California but also stepping up to the plate at the Tour and finishing in the top 10.
“I think Ryder is going to be looking forward to the Giro, so I could be his wing man and look after him and obviously help Tyler out, so there will be plenty to do there. It’s no fun to go to a race like the Giro and not have aspirations and not have anything to do.”
“You can’t go to a race of that size and say you’re just going to train, that idea is long gone and frankly it’s bullshit. I’d hate that, so I’m looking to help Ryder who is more than good enough to put in a strong performance, and if I get my chances too, I’ll take them.”
Tour de France
But the main focus in Vande Velde’s racing calendar will again be the Tour de France. Having finished fourth in 2008 he is aware of what it takes to compete among the best riders in the world and despite being 35 years old, he believes that he can rediscover that form on a Tour course that suits his abilities.
“The route suits me more than any other since 2008, and I’ve got a chance of doing well. I can replicate that result from 2008 and anything can happen, as you saw with guys like Wiggins and Froome this year, but with this course and my maturity on the bike, I can go top 10 and then if everything goes great then top five and the podium.”