The first Grand Tour of this year might still be months away but we’re looking forward to it already. That’s why we sat down with Cesare Benedetti and Lukas Pöstlberger, the surprise winners (KOM jersey and the Pink jersey) of last year’s first stage to talk the Giro through in detail.
What do you think about this year’s start in Israel?
Cesare Benedetti: Well, it will be for sure a unique moment in cycling history. Grand Tours often starts abroad but this time the start is even out of Europe! That is something that you couldn’t imagine happening just some years ago but now, thanks to technology, sponsorship, facilities, and the best means of transportation, everything can happen.
For us the riders, the logistical nightmare is now almost reduced to zero, apart from the long flight between stage 3 and 4, when the Giro will start again from Sicily. I have never been in Israel before and it is not a country where I would go on my own following my own decision. That is why cycling is giving me yet another opportunity to see something different in the world, and the place where Christianity was born.
On one side I am very happy to start the race there, it will be warm and it will be different from any other place where the Grand Depart could be. On the other side, I can’t hide that I am a bit worried about the situation there as there is a war which has been going on since the 70s’.
I like to think that the organizers and the Israeli Government have considered all the possible race situations and have taken all the security measures to prevent any problems.
Lukas Pöstlberger: In my opinion, there were some similar situations also in the past, for example, when the start was in Ireland, it was also a big effort to bring all the stuff there and then to Italy.
So, it should work pretty good, because of the Giro organization since it is always good. On the other hand, it will be a lot of stress with the traveling for sure but as professional cyclists, we are used to it.
After the Stages in Israel, the peloton will be riding from the South of Italy and all the way up to the Northern parts of the country. What should we expect, initially?
Lukas Pöstlberger: I think in the beginning, there will be some opportunities for sprinters. But also for the climbers. But I do think that the real 1st Stage for the GC guys will be the stage which finishes-up on Etna. Yes, this one will be really exciting!
Cesare Benedetti: Back to Sicily, the race will be already hard as there aren’t much flat routes on that island. And… there is the mountain top finish on the Etna volcano! For sure, the GC contenders will need to already be up at the front there and start to fight, or at least defend themselves.
Then there will be for sure a couple of chances for the sprinters but they will need to fight for that because in that part of Italy, the roads go always up and down.
Bora-Hansgrohe’s team for the Giro is not done yet but for sure like last year with Sam Bennett, we will have a fast guy and a couple of guys ready to help him trying to score good results in the sprints.
What are your thoughts on the more mountainous stages? Who should we be on the lookout for?
Cesare Benedetti: Well, for sure you can’t wait for the mountains in the last week to expect to win the Giro. Already in the first 9 days, we have 3 summit finishes. This means that who wants to fight for the final GC needs to come to the race with a very good physical shape already (I would say that they need to be at 95% of their top shape). Why? Well, in order not to lose precious time in the stages, which may seems easier in the book but actually aren’t that easy.
The 2018’s route looks really good to me as a rider as there are some very hard mountain stages balanced with some easier ones in-between. This will allow the riders to breathe and recover, and then fight even harder for the mountains stages towards the end. I really think that this will make the race even more spectacular.
If the team chooses to select me for the race, then I must say that I will be really excited to climb the famous Zoncolan as in the previous two Giro editions, it wasn’t in the plan. I have to be honest, I don’t know which riders will be there and if the team leaders have already said which of the three Grand Tour they are going to ride next year.
Lukas Pöstlberger: Well, the mountain stages are basically a big fight for me to survive after doing my job. Guys to look for will definitely be Chaves, Nibali, Dumoulin. But also our guy Formolo will try to show what he’s got. For what I saw from him already is really impressive!
One thing for sure will influence the peloton: all teams will have one guy less to work with. This will change a lot in our Grand Tours, believe me! We don’t know yet in which direction, but it will be significant.
Will you be watching the Giro d’Italia 2018? Who are your favorites riders & teams? Let us know in the comments!