Three victories, with as many different riders and their leader fully involved in the battle for the general of the Giro d’Italia. Little more can the UAE manager ask for, a Joxean Fernandez matxin who chatted with AS in the Italian round on the options of João Almeida, in addition to updating the situation of Tadej Pogacar and Juan Ayuso.
—He will be happy with the Giro that his team has been wearing so far.
—The evaluation is good, because in just over two weeks, three victories, we are still immersed in the fight for the pink jersey and expectations are still intact for the general classification. Yes, it is true that there is always a less positive side, perhaps it is the abandonment of Covi due to a fall. Also due to a crash, we lost options in the general classification with Jay Vine, who we would have liked to know how far he could have reached the first big event in order to see what his evolution is in a three-week race. But in general terms, optimistic, and above all with the ambition intact.
—Is the career at the point you wanted at this point?
—Yes, especially after Almeida’s success, a desired, sought after and longed for victory. João is always the protagonist in the Giro and circumstances have never given him a stage win. He already has it and the team believes in João, in the dream of pink. Victory is the compensation for faith in him and in a strong group like ours. It is very clear that Thomas and Roglic are currently candidates to fight for the podium. They are the most dangerous backs on paper, although we really don’t have to rule out the likes of Caruso and so on.
—Almeida will continue to attack?
“Your feelings are very good. But it happens that in many cases the sensations are also good on the part of the rivals. We have to study the evolution that Thomas may have, analyze the system they use, which is the pull plane, start shooting and try to do 400 or 450 watts for a long time to eliminate rivals. I think that partly benefits Almeida. If I were Ineos, I would use Arensman and De Plus, who are still in the top-10 and are riders who, despite the fact that Thomas is the leader, can tactically dismantle the rest of the teams.
—There is a lot of talk about Thomas and Roglic, but not so much about Almeida. Can going covered up benefit you?
—Yes, it is clear that it is the best thing that can happen because the victories are achieved on the last day, especially at an absolute general level. What is clear is that he is in a good condition, and that Thomas is in a condition that we did not expect. We knew that he could be ahead, but no one could think that in the third week he would be the undisputed leader, but Roglic is the favorite over the rest, I have no doubt in that regard.
—What will be the stage that blows up the race?
—There are tactical stages like Val di Zoldo, where a major turnaround can take place, but what is clear is that Tre Cime di Lavaredo and the time trial are decisive. They are the two stages above the rest, where everyone will be waiting for absolutely everything to be decided there. At the moment, I think there have been two races, a first half in which Remco was present and a second half of the race without Remco.
-Have you conditioned a lot? the Giro the abandonment of Evenepoel?
-Without a doubt. Remco was a trigger, for ability, for aggressiveness, for character, for many things. I think Remco would have been a rider who would have broken the race much more. The Giro would have had more sauce with Remco, because he is more unpredictable, more visceral. I think that a Giro has become a little less showy and I agree with the general public on that. It is also true that cyclists must be understood, in the sense that when you spend two or three hours in front of the television, you never appreciate certain things. The cold is never appreciated, never felt and really when you see runners who can’t even articulate their hands to brake, when you see runners who can’t put a bar in their mouth because they can’t open a plastic bag, when you see that there are runners who cannot articulate a word because they are shaking, that sensation is not transmitted on television. There have been days where cyclists have had to survive to reach the finish line and the goal was to reach the finish line.
-Regard to the stage where the route was changed. Do you think the “extreme conditions” protocol should be reconsidered?
—You have to understand the precedent, that there are these ten days of water where everyone is absolutely frozen and they pretend that there will not be another day. What is happening? My opinion is that they made a mistake in the forms and on the day, because that day there was no such adverse weather and possibly what happened was a consequence of that decision, but that decision at that time I think was not the most appropriate because in many have to be protagonists cyclists. In this case, when they are already extra, let’s say, the president of the Cyclists Association or the person in charge of Italy, I think this is like when in football the protagonists are the referees. The UCI sets the rules and the referees respect those rules and the cyclists respect those rules. When there is something extraordinarily different is when those rules are interpreted and how they should be applied. I always say that cyclists must be protected. But that moment, that day, possibly with all the applications out there today, a much more reasonable decision could have been made.
What decision should have been made?
—What has been said is that he is a judge-referee of arrivals, go three hours just before the scheduled time and make an impartial decision to apply those rules. The problem is that such an immense role would be given to this person that we should also know what criteria would be taken. Because if you are an athlete and you are in the car, three hours before is not a problem for you. But, of course, how can someone who drives for three hours at 20 degrees inside be able to say that they can go by bicycle? It can be a regulation that has to be assessed or, above all, studied.
—Pogacar has been seen by his residence in Monaco working hard on his recovery. How are you?
—He is already doing a natural roller, gradually and regularly. I calculate that on the 25th (for today) I can be on the bike. From there, we are going to see the evolution that it has each week to make decisions and, above all, although we already have the calendar stipulated, we must be prudent in terms of its evolution and not take risks.
—It remains to be decided if he will reappear in the Tour of Slovenia or the Dauphiné. Is it so?
“That’s what we’re interpreting.” It is clear that the objective is the Tour and what comes before, in all honesty, is not something that worries us, but what we are looking for is that he arrives perfectly trained, perfectly recovered and assuming the minimum risk, above all, before future falls. That is the biggest goal we have right now.
—After his good comeback in Romandía, how does Juan Ayuso feel?
“Evolution is good. He has had improvements, that degree of discomfort has decreased, he no longer has pain. He is training well, he is right now in Sierra Nevada with his teammates. We are optimistic and we have a goal, which is to try to get him to go to Switzerland with the best possible conditions. Starting in Switzerland, we have to try to maintain the program and the calendar that we had established from the beginning.
—What preparation will Juan follow for the great objective of La Vuelta?
—In principle, everything happens through the Tour of Switzerland, from the Tour of Switzerland we will establish whether or not we participate in the Spanish Championships, which are in Madrid this year and are hard, circuits in the Sierra, so it is a Circuit that could help you. Then we will focus on doing the program well for La Vuelta.
—Since you couldn’t be there last year, do you intend to get rid of the World Cup?
—This is also a decision that Momparler has to make, but we have to see the route a bit, in this case it is not the best for a climber or a type of cyclist like him. A decision will have to be made jointly with the Federation, which I think is fair and normal.