Garmin-Transitions is nothing short of ambitious as the team rolls into the Giro d’Italia with realistic goals of winning stages and capturing the pink jersey in the opening week.
While the team doesn’t have a candidate for all-out victory, Garmin-Transitions brings a motivated line up to win sprints with Tyler Farrar and chase the pink jersey with the likes of David Millar and Christian Vande Velde.
“We’re really excited about this Giro. We have a strong team to win with Tyler and I think David can do well in Saturday’s prologue,” Julian Dean told VeloNews. “We’ve got a good chance for the team time trial and if one of our guys can be close to GC after these three days in Holland, we think we can grab the pink jersey.”
Millar will be one of the favorites for victory in Saturday’s prologue on what’s a flat, but technically challenging power course through the streets of downtown Amsterdam.
“I want to win a stage here at this Giro, so I can redeem myself from my bike-throwing extravaganza from a few years ago,” said Millar, referring to an incident in the 2008 Giro when he dropped his chain within eye-shot of victory. “I feel good. I want to have fun in this Giro and enjoy racing my bike. I’d like to do well again in a prologue.”
Millar, a winner of two time trials already this season, said the Amsterdam course deceptively more challenging than it seems on paper. Riders won’t know exactly how the course will be laid out until organizers fence off the road.
The first half of the course is held right in the heart of downtown Amsterdam and the roads are strewn with metro lines, concrete traffic barriers, off-camber corners and covered with the gunk of urban living, which could all make for a very treacherous race if rain falls as forecasted.
“It could be very windy. I thought the course would be protected in the city, but it was very windy when we rode it (Thursday). It’s fairly technical, with a lot of pace changes. It’s not at all what I expected,” he said.
The team time trial in stage 4 will be another big goal for the Garmin, which won the TTT stage in the 2008 Giro to give Christian Vande Velde the pink jersey.
Garmn’s Giro riders trained together for an entire week in Girona, Spain, to perfect the team’s TTT technique.
“We really worked hard on it and I think we’ll have a very strong chance to win,” said Svein Tuft, starting his first Giro. “We trained together every day for it all last week, so I think we have it down pretty good. We want to have some of our guys high on GC after these first stages in Holland and I think we’ll have a good shot at the pink jersey.”
Vande Velde isn’t discounting his GC chances, but it’s certainly not the top priority as he he’s hoping to use the Giro to catapult into the Tour de France later this season in top form.
“I don’t have pressure, but I am definitely going to race hard those first two weeks and see where the cards fall. It worked out really well for me in 2008 and it worked out great for Wiggo last year,” Vande Velde told VeloNews. “If something happens, it happens .I’ve been training really hard the last month or so, I am fit and strong, that doesn’t mean I am fast in the race. You cannot simulate anything like the Giro than at home.”
The team’s other top goal is to contend in the sprints with Farrar. Last year, Farrar made his grand tour debut with the Giro and came close to winning a stage.
Farrar, who eventually snagged his first grand tour stage victory in last year’s Vuelta a España, is quietly optimistic he can win at least one in the Giro.
“We’ve brought a strong team for the sprint stages. We’ll try to control things to a certain extent, but we won’t do all the work alone,” Farrar said. “I’ve had a good spring and now the Giro is my next big objective. I’ve been in Spain the past two weeks training with the team. My condition is good. If I have results like I did in the spring, I am optimistic for good results.”
Most of the pieces of the Garmin train will be in place for the Giro, with Dean, Millar, Tuft and Murilo Fischer all playing key roles in the final kilometers. Missing is Robbie Hunter, who is still struggling with an injury to his Achilles tendon and did not start the Giro as planned.
“The big goal is to win a stage in the first two weeks,” Farrar said. “It’s a good field of sprinters here, with Petacchi, Greipel, McEwen, Henderson. It’s a pity that Cavendish and Freire are not racing. I always prefer to have the best sprinters in the race. If you win, you want to win against the best, but still, it’s not going to be easy.”
Daniel Martin, Jack Bobridge and Cameron Meyer round out the squad.