Geraint Thomas has to use the two time trials at this year’s Giro d’Italia to his advantage as he prepares to co-lead Team Sky for the first time in a Grand Tour, the team’s sports directeur Dario Cioni explained.
The Welshman will head Team Sky’s line-up in Italy this May along with his team-mate Mikel Landa, having been keen to be given the opportunity to ride for himself in a Grand Tour. Thomas picked this year’s Giro as the race he felt most suited to, as it features two tests against the clock and four summit finishes.
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The first time trial is hilly, covering 39km on stage 10, while the second takes place on the final stage with a flat 28km run into Milan.
“There’s a long time trial and then another time trial towards the end – on that side it’s pretty good,” Cioni told Cycling Weekly at the Dubai Tour.
“Compared to the past editions of the Giro [this route] is missing the crazy steep climbs. We’ve still got really, really hard stages [but] you’re missing the vertical wall. The Mortirolo [climb] you go up the other side and it’s not as hard.
“I think for him, his goal is to gain time in the time trials and defend himself on the mountain stages.”
Thomas has been focusing on stage racing the past couple of seasons with the aim of challenging the overall in a Grand Tour. Despite strong performances in the Classics, he largely sacrificed the spring campaign in 2016 and went on to secure the biggest victory of his career last March at Paris-Nice.
“He really wants to give it a shot yes, and maybe we’ll see. He needs to be really strong on the climbs, he’s done it in the past and he’s done it even passing through the Classics [campaign], which is not the best preparation.”
While Sky has won the Tour de France four times in the last five years, victories in the Giro and Vuelta a Espana still escape them. Yet with Landa and Thomas as co-leaders, Cioni believes the team can have a tactical advantage over its rivals. Nairo Quintana is set to target the Giro and the Tour double in 2017, while 2016 Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali is due to defend his title too.
“In the past we’ve gone into the Giro with one sole leader and it didn’t work out. I think we decided to change and G [Geraint] wanted to commit and try and go for GC in one race. With what he’s done in the past I think he deserves this chance,” Cioni – who finished fourth at the Giro in 2004 – said.
“Then we have Mikel – after a very promising start last year he had to come out of the race when he was in a really good position after the most difficult past of the race for him.
“This year he’s been through a really good winter compared to the past two season. Hopefully he’s going to be good. We know he can climb well and he’s still going on working on the time trial.
“I think with the two really different cards. Together G has more experience being team leader, Mikel has a bit less experience, but they can combine together.”