A big hello to CyclingTips readers from Ireland. It kinda feels a bit strange saying “from Ireland” being a Giro d’Italia diary and all. But as everyone knows we start here for the 2014 edition.

For those that don’t know me (and I hope some of you do) I’m David Tanner, riding for Belkin Pro Cycling and for this year’s race I’m going to provide CyclingTips with a diary as often as I can to give some insight into what you don’t see on TV.

To start I guess I should introduce the team a little, our objectives here, and the different roles each rider has to play throughout the race.

It’s nice for this race that we are not spreading ourselves out too much. We have two clear guys for a top 10 on GC: “Dirty Wilko” (Wilko Kelderman) and Stevie (Steven Kruijswijk). The Giro is Wilko’s big objective for the year and he has proven before and shown this year that he’s up for the challenge. He will also be after the white jersey as well, but they come hand in hand. Stevie is more than capable of achieving a top 10, so between them I think the team’s hoping for a good showing in the GC.

For the rest of the team we have a good mix of helpers and guys to take their chance when they feel good, whether it be in a breakaway or to sniff around in some of the finals of the easier finishes. But if we are not in a move up the road it will be all hands on deck looking after and protecting Wilko and Steven.

We have Maarten Tjallingii (Tjalo), Jetse Bol, Jos van Emdem and Rick Flens, who are all big strong Dutch guys, who will play a big part on the flatter days. Martijn Kiezer and Mark Goos will be there to support the GC guys when the bigger climbs come.

As for me, I’ll mingle between the two groups. I’ll have to make sure that Wilko is in the front at any important moments and stay with him as long as I can on the hard days until Martijn and Mark take over. I will also get my chance to try a breakaway or do some finals if I feel good. It’s a role I have fallen into quite well since joining the team and it’s more or less my job at most races now.

You may be thinking “Shit, the Aussie is a bit outnumbered there with the Dutchies”, and you’d be right. I have been a bit worried about the dinner table conversations. I think this will be the first race that I’m the only non-Dutch rider so I’m prepared for it. They are all good guys and wouldn’t flick me on purpose, but it’s only natural for them to speak Dutch to each other. Hopefully they will explain the jokes so I can have the odd laugh as well.

As well as us riders we also have two sports directors, one chef, a bus driver, four mechanics, four or five massage therapists (“swannies”) one coach, a press/media guy, the team manager normally floats around, and a few others come and go. So it’s a big crew.

Throughout the race I will try to give a bit of insight into the roles being played within the team and how different guys are good at contributing in different ways for the good of the team and our goals.

For now, it’s all about trying to stay as quiet, relaxed, warm and dry (it is Ireland after all) as possible. We’ll get the bikes dialled in, get a good massage and enjoy the calm before the storm.

I have heard a lot of guys say “oh, it’s all about the second half of the Giro” or “it will be easy in Ireland; it’s flat” but that was also said about last year’s Vuelta, and that first half was certainly hard.

I think the weather will play a big role in the Irish stages. We rode the last 50km of the second stage in recon and it wasn’t much fun. We’ve also done recon for the first stage TTT, had the team presentation and it’s not long now until we’re all on the grid and raring to go.

I hope that gives you a little insight into our situation now. I also just heard from my dad that Henk Vogels will be commentating on the race for Aussie viewers (on SBS), which I thought was great. There aren’t too many other guys out there with the experience that Henk has, so he knows how a race feels and what’s going on. Sometimes on TV a race can look way easier and calmer than it really is. Here’s hoping that’s not the case for the first few days here in Ireland.

Until next time,

Dave

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