Steven Kruijswijk: ‘I learned a lot from 2016 Giro d’Italia experience’

The Dutchman says the final week of the 2020 Giro is the hardest he's seen in a Grand Tour

Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) says he has learned from his Giro d’Italia experience in 2016 which saw him lose the overall lead after a dramatic crash on stage 19 of the race.

The Dutchman heads into the 2020 Giro on Saturday for only the second time since he came close to winning the race overall four years ago. Kruijswijk led the race by three minutes heading into the mountain stage on stage 19, which ascended the 2733m high Colle dell’Agnello before finishing on the category one climb to Risoul. Chasing his nearest rivals Esteban Chaves and Vincenzo Nibali over the top of the Agnello, Kruijswijk crashed into a snowbank on the side of the road on the descent of the climb, and failed to chase back on, eventually finishing 16th and losing 4-54.

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>>> Giro d’Italia 2020 start list: Line-ups for the 103rd edition

Kruijswijk never recovered that time and ended the race in fourth overall, narrowly missing out on a first Grand Tour podium. He returned to the Giro in 2017 and failed to finish, but finally exorcised some of those demons in 2019 as he claimed a maiden Grand Tour podium at the Tour de France, where he finished third.

Now, at 33 years old, Kruijswijk says the Giro experience and his Tour podium finish have left him in good stead as he chases Giro victory over the next three weeks against rivals like Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Geraint Thomas (Ineos), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).

“I have some good memories and lesser memories of the Giro,” Kruijswijk said in a pre-race press conference.

“I’ve left [2016] behind me and I’ve learned a lot from that Giro and to be able to wear the leader’s jersey in the race, to try to defend it and how to handle to go for the win.

“I think I’ve showed the last few years already that I left that behind me and still am able to fight for podium like last year and in the Tour de France. So I think by the years I get a lot of experience and I take that with me. Of course I would like to get in the jersey again this year.”

Kruijswijk’s form heading into the 103rd edition of the Giro is something of an unknown. He didn’t race at all prior to the coronavirus-enforced suspension of the season this year, only making his season debut at the Tour de l’Ain as he prepared to target the Tour de France with the Jumbo-Visma super-squad that also contained Tom Dumoulin, Primož Roglič, and Wout van Aert.

Steven Kruijswijk at the 2019 Vuelta a España (Photo: Yuzuru SUNADA)

A crash at his second race, the Critérium du Dauphiné, forced him to abandon and skip the Tour with injury. He then refocused on the Giro d’Italia, but says he won’t know where his form lies until the opening stages of the race in Sicily, having only been able to train and not compete ahead of the race. Kruijswijk also said that he believed the final week of the Giro was the hardest he’d seen at a Grand Tour.

“I did a lot of training this year and didn’t race so much. I think I will know after the first weekend, because we already have Etna in the third stage, how my shape will be and I think the Giro starts quite hard in the beginning already. So I think after Sicily, we know how good I am.

“There wasn’t enough time to do some recon of the stages and of the TT. But yeah, I know some of the climbs that we are doing this year and they’re really hard. I’m really looking forward especially to the last week which is I think is the toughest last week in a Grand Tour I’ve seen.”