Giro d’Italia, the evergreen Garzelli is the only cyclist from Varese
The 94th Giro d’Italia is starting next Saturday. Once again, the almost 38-year-old cyclist from Besano will be the Capitan of the Acqua&Sapone team. “I want to win a stage. Any day is good.”
The jersey he wears is the red one of the Acqua&Sapone team, but in the past (in 2000), it was the pink jersey that he managed to wear as far as Milan. Today, Stefano Garzelli, the champion from Besano, is almost 38, and is making one more attempt. Next Saturday, 7 May, the 94th Giro d’Italia is starting, and despite his age, Garzelli will be one of the most eagerly awaited riders, and Varese’s only representative at the starting line. As Ivan Basso (and Santaromita) are concentrating on the Tour de France, and other “pro” riders from Varese are involved in teams that have not been invited, it falls, once more, on our “Garzo” to carry the banner of a town which has produced some great champions in the past, but which has few promising cyclists for the future.
Stefano, here we are. How do you feel after the Tour of Trentino and the Larciano GP?
“I think I’ve reached my full potential, and this makes me confident for the start of the Giro. On the other hand, all of my preparation was for this event, so I knew that I would suffer a bit in the previous races. Anyway, in Larciano (7th, with the leaders, ed.) I saw some improvements and now I feel ready.”
Knowing you, I guess your first goal is to win a stage.
“Yes, I really want and hope to do that. Having said that, I’ll be satisfied if I manage to perform well on the Giro overall.”
Tell us which stage you are aiming at in particular. The first “good” one is Montevergine.
“No, it’s too difficult to focus on a single stage and, after all, last year I won the stage that I least expected (the Plan de Corones time trial). On this Giro, there are a lot of climbs, and the favourites will have several opportunities to achieve the final victory; I just want to be ready, because any day could be the right one to attack.”
In 2009, you wore the wonderful green jersey as the best climber; is that also one of your goals?
“The mountain classification is important, but it’s mostly a result of how the race is going. It’s certainly a great trophy, but it’s difficult to plan before the start, because of how the Giro has been designed this year”.
In addition to the pink jersey in 2000, you’ve achieved several one-day successes. Is there a special one that you remember?
“Winning a stage on the Giro d’Italia is always a great thrill, I remember each one of these finishes with great pleasure. Maybe from a technical point of view, the best race was that of Terme Lunigiane in 2003. I won the final sprint, ahead of Casagrande and Petacchi, and my performance was really exceptional. But, as I said before, the rankings are difficult; then there were the breakaway in Lienz and the grand finale in Bergamo in 2007.”
For the overall classification, do you think you’ll let the others overtake you, or will you try to be one of the leaders for as long as possible?
“I know very well that competing at the highest level for three weeks is not easy for me anymore, but I don’t want to give up without trying. Let’s see how I feel in Montevergine and on Etna, then I’ll know what I have to do at each stage. Of course, I’ve got a lot of very talented opponents.”
Apart from everyone’s favourites (Contador, Nibali, Scarponi, Sastre, Menchov), who else could be in line for the pink jersey?
“I think Joaquim Rodriguez is being underestimated too much. He’s not good in the time trials, but there aren’t many of those, and there are lots of climbs, where he’s extremely strong. And then Katusha has a sufficiently good team to give him the support he needs. Then, I think we’ll see some of the young foreigners achieving good places in the ranking, as happens every year. Or maybe some moves similar to what Arroyo did in 2010, when he got into the breakaway group and made it to the podium.”
You’re not thinking of repeating the sudden attack of the Spanish rider?
“I think that an unusual stage like the one in L’Aquila will never happen again. The group is sufficiently “immunised” against what occurred on that day. But one thing is still true; riding while paying attention to what is happening within the group can help you gain precious time.”
You’re the only rider from Varese in the group. You should know that we’re counting on you.
“That’s right, this year I’m alone. Even Andriotto (his loyal support rider, who retired at the end of 2010) has abandoned me. So, please, I need your support.”