He’s the pro’s pro and he knows the Giro inside out; there was no one better to ask about Thursday’s dreaded 60.6 kilometres of Cinque Terre solo pain than Silence-Lotto’s Brit, Charly Wegelius.
PEZ: We’re a little surprised to see you at the Giro; we thought it was ‘tout pour le Tour et Cadel,’ Charly.
Chary: The Giro was always on my programme; Cadel decided not to ride, but we stuck with it for me, we think that it will be ideal preparation for the Tour. I know the Giro really well and there’s no real pressure on us, so in theory it should be ideal build up – but we’ll know better how it’s worked out in August, after the Tour is finished!
Charly is no stranger to the sport’s biggest races.
PEZ: Silence-Lotto goals for the Giro?
Charly: Philippe Gilbert is our best rider and he’s targeting a few stages which he thinks suit him. But with having no one for GC, we have a lot of freedom to ride for our selves, get in breaks, try and get a result for the team.
Philippe Gilbert has been fairly quiet so far, but there are some great attacking stages coming up.
PEZ: Did you manage a TT course ‘recce?’
Charly: No, if I’d been riding for the GC then I would have been down and ridden it a couple of times; but in my situation it doesn’t matter if it takes me a minute or two longer.
PEZ: What was your equipment choice?
Charly: I rode my standard road bike with clip on tri-bars; deep section carbon rims shod with 22 mm Continental tubs.
PEZ: Was it as dramatic as they predicted?
Charly: It really was; someone said there were 600 corners on the course, if it wasn’t 600, then it was at least 400! On a lot of the corners you couldn’t see any more than about two seconds ahead, in addition to the physical pressure, there was a lot of mental strain on you – you had to concentrate very hard.
PEZ: How did you approach the stage?
Charly: Coming into it, I made sure that I had plenty of sleep, on a stage race like this you have to snatch every opportunity to rest and sleep. I slept late, until around 10.00 am and had breakfast at 11.00 am. I only warmed up on the rollers for around 15 minutes – it was so hot and the race was so long that there was no point in doing too much; it’s not as if I was setting out to pull up any trees! My aim was to get through a reasonable speed; it’s not as easy as you think to ride a ‘slow’ time trial; if you think too much about riding it at low speed, then those are the days you really suffer. You’re always thinking about the time cut; it would be a sad way to leave the race. I started quite fast because I knew that I could ease back if I had to.
Charly took it pretty easy in today’s time trial, but always with an eye on the time cut.
PEZ: Is that the longest time test you’ve ridden?
Charly: In terms of duration, yes. I’ve ridden 60 K time trials in the Tour but usually they are flat and much faster (Menchov’s winning average today was under 39 kph). I tried to split it into sections in my mind to break it up; but which ever way you look at it – it’s a bloody long way!
PEZ: What about the time cut?
Charly: It’s always on your mind, it’s 25% on a time trial; that sounds like a lot, but if the winner does something exceptional then you can get caught out. Everyone tries to work out the winner’s time and calculate back from that. There was a time trial in the Tour a few years ago and Indurain almost eliminated his brother – only the fact that Mig punctured saved Prudencio from elimination!
PEZ: It doesn’t seem to have been as decisive as perhaps we thought it would be?
Charly: No, it’s like the Plan de Corones time trial last year, when it’s really hard, the gaps don’t seem to open up like you might expect; it’s still a very open race. It’s good for the race too that there are still potential Italian winners.
Charly: He’s improving consistently; I’ve noticed daily improvement in him since the rest day. He’s going to come out of this Giro in much better shape than he came in. I think people underestimate how difficult it is to come back into a sport this hard after three years of playing golf. And to come back from the broken collar bone was impressive, most riders wouldn’t be riding the way he is after a crash like that, never mind being out of the sport for three years.
Armstrong is getting better and better daily.
PEZ: Menchov, a surprise to you?
Charly: No, no, no – the press don’t make a big fuss of him but he’s incredibly consistent and strong; he never has a bad day; I thought that today would be between him and Levi. In the group, it’s easy to forget that he’s there, he never gets carried away and does too much at the front, but he has a huge engine.
Denis Menchov is now Charly’s #1 pick for the overall.
PEZ: Michael Rogers – did you expect a better time from him?
Charly: No, not really, perhaps a little better but we’re not machines and it’s 12 days into the race; those paper form books don’t mean much at this stage. I think that Mick still has some things to say in this Giro, though.
Mick Rogers wasn’t great today, but he’s certainly not out of it.
PEZ: Any surprises today?
Charly: I don’t think so, I haven’t studied the result, but from what I saw on the TV, in the team car it went pretty much as one would expect. Basso maybe could have been expected to do better, I would have thought the course was suited to him – digging, attacking; but we’re 12 days in and nothing is certain.
Don’t count Di Luca out either!
PEZ: And the winner will be?
Charly: Di Luca or Menchov – but veering towards Menchov, now.
With thanks to Charly for his time; we’ll be talking to him again, before the dust settles in Roma.