Astana’s Andrea Guardini Gets PEZ’d
Andrea Guardini is a sprinter, a pure sprinter, but one without a dedicated sprint train. That said, he’s done well with eighteen stage wins in the Tour de Langkawi, a Giro stage win and stage wins in Oman, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Turkey, Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia, plus the ENECO Tour and the World Ports Classic. The Belgian semi-Classic Scheldeprijs has also been very successful for him.
We caught up with Andrea at the Astana training camp in Spain last week for a word or two about his career, his hopes for the future, sprinting, disk brakes, hot weather and terrorist attacks.
PEZ: Why are you so good in the Tour of Langkawi?
Andrea Guardini: Because I race there every year! Simple. For sure, that is the period, during all the years, that I feel good because I will have just raced before in another race and I will arrive in Langkawi in good condition. The other thing is that I like the hot weather a lot, I am more comfortable in 35ºC plus than in 5ºC.
PEZ: But you always ride well in Asia, also Oman, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.
I like these races a lot because I know that a lot of times there are flat stages, completely flat and also I feel good with the wind and the echelons, like in Qatar. I know that in these places that the hot weather is good for me, these places are the best for me and my riding.
PEZ: But you also ride well in the Scheldeprijs in Belgium, it’s not the same.
Yeah, OK. Many times I say to my self: “I’m good in April, but I don’t take many good results in April because it is too cold for me.” I prefer the hot races, but I know the Scheldeprijs is one of my top goals every year because it is a really good sprinters race, but it is too dangerous. The finalé I know is normally a dangerous Belgian finish, it’s Belgium.
PEZ: But the Scheldeprijs is nothing like Dubai, Abu Dhabi…
In Abu Dhabi and in Dubai, for example, the roads are really wide and there is less stress. Although it is the start of the season and there might be someone wanting to risk everything for the win, maybe someone is not on top form for the sprints. Anyway there are a lot of sprinters, like Kristoff last year, everywhere is difficult to win. Only one wins.
PEZ: How do you describe yourself as a rider?
I think I can describe myself as a ‘pure’ sprinter. If I think of one rider to compare myself to, it would be Robbie McEwan. When he was a rider, he was a very smart rider in the sprint. I don’t know if I am as smart as he is, but I try to do my best.
PEZ: Sprinters in those days were different.
Yes, really different. Now there are a lot of sprinters and teams who have a sprint train and it is so difficult to take a good position for the sprint. I know that in Astana we don’t have a pure train for me, but I know I am okay if I catch the other trains, but I also know it is difficult to win in this way and many times you finish second or third. This year I was second six times, I don’t enjoy that but I know it is the sprint, it’s normal.
PEZ: The sprinters train has changed, they all seem to have big guys these days.
If you look at Katusha or Etixx – Quick-Step, they have a completely different team for the classics. I am comfortable with two or three guys, it’s not necessary to have a big train for me, I need only one or two guys to pilot me in the final so I’m sheltered from the wind and then I’m okay.
PEZ: Sometimes there is not enough room for five or six trains?
When there are a lot of trains it is better to do your sprint alone because there is too much confusion at the front. All races are different now, in Dubai there are three trains and it is simpler to do it alone. Sometimes I think with a big train, like in the first stage of the Tour of Poland, Kittel won because Giant-Alpecin took him to the line with a lot of power. With a Kilometer to go I was in seventh position and I finished seventh. It depends on the road, sometimes it’s better to do it alone, but with a train it can make a lot of difference.
PEZ: Sprinting has changed over the last five years and much more in ten years.
In the last five or six years there has been a lot more sprinters, a lot of young sprinters. I think Bouhanni, Degenkolb, me, Pelucchi, Viviani and then Greipel, Cavendish, Kittel, the big ones. There are now ten to fifteen sprinters now. Ten years ago there were five sprinters.
PEZ: Now you also have the GC men at the front on the run-in to the sprint.
This is a really big problem I think, we can work with the CPA (Cyclists Union) and ACCPI for the Italians, it’s too dangerous for the General Classification riders and for the riders who want to go for the sprint. The best idea is; for the flat stages everyones time should be taken with 3K’s to go. For the GC riders to be riding at the front incase of a fall is stupid I think, it doesn’t change anything as it is not here (in the sprints) that the top guys win a Grand Tour. I think it is one of the rules that I hope they change.
With 10 kilometers to go you have Sky, Tinkoff, the GC teams at the front and there are a lot of crashes because of this.
PEZ: Do you know your calendar for the season yet?
I’ve not spoken yet about my calendar, but I know the first races: Dubai, like this year, Qatar/Dubai are 100% sure as I explained, they are my races.
PEZ: And a Grand Tour?
I want to talk (to the team) about this to see if there is a possibility of riding the Giro d’Italia this year, I saw that there are a lot of flat stages at the start in the Netherlands and in the first two weeks there are some stages for me.
PEZ: Now the Giro and the Vuelta have many summit finishes.
Last year in November (2014) we spoke about me riding the Vuelta, this was before we saw the profile. When they presented the Vuelta a España I saw there was maybe only one sprint stage, so there was no point in me going. I was happy not to go.
PEZ: Do you think these finishes are ruining the Grand Tours?
For me yes! But if you look at previous years, I remember in 2004, for example, Petacchi won nine stages because there were maybe five completely flat stages and another two, three, four stages that the sprinters can finish at the front. Now it is impossible to see a Grand Tour with six or seven stages for the sprinters, especially the Vuelta a España. The Tour has also changed, no longer is there eight flat stages at the start. It’s not only Cavendish who says this and for him and the other sprinters it’s not a good idea. Another point is that we (the sprinters) have less chance to win WorldTour points if there are no flat stages in the Grand Tours, and there are no opportunities in the Classics for us to gain points. If you look at the points for a stage in Poland or the ENECO Tour, it’s 6 points for a stage win, if you win overall you get 100 points, it’s completely different. If you are 6th on GC then you take 35 points, you can’t compare. For my work it is difficult, for me I know I am a sprinter, I am paid to win, not because I take a lot of points. Simple.
PEZ: You’re 26, how do you see your future?
I hope that 2016 will be an important season for me because every year I see I can do well in other races. I’m thinking of Hamburg (Vattenfall Cyclassics), I know I can get to the finish for the sprint and not just stage finish sprints, but also races of over 150 kilometers. I’m not talking about Milano-Sanremo, for the moment, as I know I have to work a lot before then, but for other races I can do something…
PEZ: Do you think Sanremo is still a sprinters race?
Well, with the weather conditions the race can be completely different. Like the last three years, unfortunately, it was raining all day and 6ºC. So just for this it can be a hard race, so it depends.
PEZ: At this training camp, are you training hard?
I know that December is the most important month for me to have a good start to the season. At the moment I do a lot of hours, but easy for good preparation for the year.
PEZ: You don’t start doing intervals or other specialist training?
No, not for the moment. Sometimes if we do three hours, I will do one hour more for a little better preparation. Especially here, we can ride in 20ºC and I know that after the team presentation it will be 5 or 6 degrees in Italy and it will be more difficult to do the long training. If it is too cold to go training in Verona, where I live, I can go to Tuscany. Because December is so important for me, last year I stayed here (in Spain) for ten days after the training camp. This year we have the team presentation and after if it is too cold at home I will find somewhere warm for training. If I want to win in February and March, I have to do it.
PEZ: And the feeling at this camp, is it serious or still fun?
It depends, when we have to work, we work. But now we have time to talk and make jokes, it’s a good ambiance.
PEZ: I saw there were some jokes last night on Twitter between Vincenzo, Vignoli and some others.
Ah, yes there was some joke between them. It’s good to pass the time.
PEZ: What do you think of Disk brakes?
Ah, the hot subject! For me, a sprinter, I don’t like them. I have never ridden with them, but I remember the second stage of the Tour de Pologne with a big crash with forty riders, with disk brakes it would be like a knife, a hot knife and so I think it is too dangerous. I think normal brakes are good, this is only a commercial idea for the USA and for mountain and normal bikes.
2015 Tour de Pologne stage 2 crash
PEZ: On a different subject, do you think professional cycling could be a target for terrorist attacks?
When I saw what happened in Paris; I thought they can do anything, any time, anywhere they want. It’s scary if you think this, but we cannot block all the streets and all the airports. I think that maybe at the final stage of the Tour de France anything could happen.