What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro di Pez: HTC-Columbia Team Intro!

It must have been a long way from the press room to the Bar Vak Zuid nestled under Amsterdam’s Olympic stadium, or maybe it was the 10am start, but the turnout was about the same as for the UK parliamentary elections yesterday. Still, that gave Pez the chance to see the squad in more relaxed surroundings, before the big kick-off tomorrow.

When you look at who’s doing the Tour of California or not on this roster you realise … HTC-Columbia have actually got a hell of a line-up. The Giro team boasts one of the fastest sprinters in the world, if not the fastest on current form. Then there are rouleurs of incredible strength, an ace TTer and some pretty solid climbing talent.

Appropriately enough, it was a Dutchman who got the chance to lead the meet-and-greet. Tristan Hoffman is directing the HTC-Columbia guys here.

“I’m very proud that we have the Giro starting here in Holland, and proud of the team we have here for this race.”

He should be … the star of the show is Andre Greipel, who’s ongoing ‘spat’ with Mark Cavendish means one that this town don’t look big enough for the two of them.

So Greipel’s got the Giro in Holland and Italy this year and Cav is going to California. If they’re both winning then the management will have a happy problem, instead of a nightmare.

Adam Hansen is one of two Aussies on the squad and was just receiving an email from our very own Ed Hood when I grabbed him for a chat. Team liaison Kristy Scyrmgeour reckons Hansen is in very good shape coming into the Giro, so he’ll have a busy three weeks ahead working for Greipel.

Matt Goss is the other thunderer from Down Under, with a big role to play. Hoffman said Goss had a big role because he’s now a key component of the sprint train. Having hit the top ten in Grand Tour stages before he knows the score when it comes to a big sprint.

America’s Craig Lewis is in his first Giro. “Louey”, as Hoffman calls him, will be riding the Giro for experience, mainly, but also to help out Albasini and Pinotti in the steeper stages. It’s a big test for the 24-year old, but he could be one to watch if the cards fall his way in the hills.

There are a couple of giants on the team, and one is the Czech timetrial specialist Frantisek Rabon, aka Rabonski. “He has been riding really well this year,” according to Hoffman and with a couple of TTs that suit his style, he could be in with a shout of bothering the podium.

“And you? Who are you?” Lots of hilarity as Vincente Reynes is introduced, lots of hand gestures. “He did really well in the spring and can do a good lead-out for Andre”.

“The tall guy, from Germany, is the right-hand of Andre. After a small break, he’s very consistent again”. Marcel Sieberg is huge, 6’6” tall. My neck still hurts from looking up at him as I’m only a weedy 5’10”.

He’ll be helping to chase down breaks and then slotting into the sprint train with a couple of clicks to go, winding things up for Greipel.

Marco Pinotti, everybody knows him!” Indeed, and he’ll be one of the favorites for the opening TT tomorrow around the tram-tracked Amsterdam streets. His ride for the maglia rosa is arguably the biggest day of his season, so he’s under pressure to deliver a good result. He was also hugely in demand from the TV crews that came, and spent more time than anyone except Greipel under questioning.

Michael Albasini is an experienced guy, capable of getting in breaks, capable of winning stage races, as he did in the Tour of Austria last year (that’s July’s ‘other’ race, by the way). Like Craig Lewis, if the cycling gods are in a good mood, he could produce something on the road to Verona.

Last in the line-up, but very possibly first over the line in Sunday’s opening road stage, is Andre Greipel. He’s an imposing figure, especially when he’s facing questions from the press.

A good 30 minutes of questions – a lot of them about his relationship with Cavendish – left the otherwise amiable German looking like he’d rather face a leg-loosening ride in the chilly Dutch drizzle.

The main goal for Greipel is the first week, and if he does a solid TT, maybe time bonuses can put him in the pink jersey. He can climb better than a lot of sprinters, but the last week is not going to be a happy hunting ground for him.

“I think we have a dream team here, and we are ready for the Giro.” Proud words from Tristan Hoffman, but if the attitude off the road is any indication, it looks a tight-knit bunch given the general larking about you associate with a soccer team, and not a serious bunch of boys who ride bikes and watch their diets.

Everything seemed pretty relaxed for a team just getting ready for a race that takes up a fair chunk of a year of life.

Like kids in a sweetshop, as Pinotti and Greipel were being interrogated, the rest of the guys had located the freebie rucksacks and were busy exploring.

The lesser-photographed Kristy Scrymgeour prefers to stay well behind the lens, but we managed to coax a picture out of her. Kristy is the “go-to” person for both the men’s and women’s teams so thanks to her for helping arrange access to the event.

Outside, Greipel was looking a lot happier as he posed by the bus with his buddies, including ‘Uncle Pinotti’.

With the flags of the Olympic Stadium getting a wind-battering in the background, Pinotti was making sure everything was in working order as he set off on his TT bike, the other guys on regular road steeds. Three long hard weeks ahead, we wish them a safe trip round to Verona.

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