Part 4: The Selection

In the build-up to the 104th Giro d’Italia we’ve been providing some key insights into the process involved in just getting to the start-line.

That point is the culmination of months of planning, training and a series of decisions that will – if all goes to plan – play a large part in determining the success of the race. In this installment we focus on how the final selection of the riders that will be at the Grande Partenza was made.

Lars Michaelsen – Head Sports Director

Grand Tour team selection is both a very difficult decision-making process, or perhaps seen through a difference lens, sometimes purely just very simple.

There are just so many factors at play in putting together a team for a Grand Tour: form, injury, team goals and objectives, circumstance and then of course there could also be broader factors in play too, shall we call them “cycling economics”.

Our final selection for the Giro d’Italia is one that when you look at it on paper has some clear objectives but as we always know in cycling, it is ultimately the road that will make and take the final decision for you.

So, how easy has this been for our first Grand Tour as Team Qhubeka ASSOS? Let me give you some insights and take you back to the “beginning”…

November 2020, considering the late securing of our team’s future for a further year, saw us extremely active in the transfer market, looking to build our roster for 2021. This late juncture of course saw the majority of higher profile “GC” riders naturally already signed with other teams and with our budget consideration as a major factor, we had to make some interesting, bold decisions.

Moreover to build a team where we need to go to three Grand Tours, plus other races, and in particular riders with climbing skills has seen us limited with respect to those sorts of resources on offer.

In October every rider from our 2020 roster was given the freedom to find other teams by in order to secure their own futures. To comply with UCI regulations for WorldTour teams we had to reach the minimum number of 27, which in the end saw 20 new riders join our organisation.

We needed to balance these signings so that we could cover both a WorldTour program by signing a majority of riders who were immediately able to operate at a high level and as a consequence of that, we were only able to cast our eye to a few riders looking at their longer term development on the WorldTour.

The limitations provided by this framework, balanced with the varying degrees of expectation of success within the team, together with great partners and the team’s purpose, ensures that it’s a special mix that does require some time to bed in and to gel.

That said, we have already seen overall that through the opportunities given to the riders that we actually have made a big step forward in both race performances and importantly in the ethos of being “One Team”, celebrated by the spirit of Ubuntu.

In that context for the Giro, initially, we would have liked to have a bigger pool of climbers in good form but that wasn’t the case on the eve of the Corsa Rosa which helped refine our strategy for the race.

So, we’ve cut our cloth accordingly and will be looking at the both the sprint capabilities in Giacomo Nizzolo and the support we can offer him through the likes of Max Walscheid and others; we believe that looking at targeting stage success if the best approach for us. For Giacomo, not only as the reigning European and Italian champion but also with the history that he has with this race, this is going to be a very special event and we look forward to seeing what he can do.

Added to that mix we have the likes of time trial specialist Victor Campenaerts, who has really shown during the Classics his versatility, and can play a crucial role in our strive for success in the race.

In Domenico Pozzovivo we have a man who can climb – when in form history proves among the best of them – and who showed in 2020 incredible fighting spirit in what was simply a remarkable comeback following a life-threatening injury just a year beforehand. No doubt that this is going to be an exceptionally hard race, featuring a stellar cast in the peloton, but hopefully the likes of Pozzo, together with the support of Kilian Frankiny, can get stronger in the latter stages.

And I’m excited about seeing the work of the “support crew” too. In Bert-Jan Lindeman and Lukasz Wisniowski we have a lot of experience, and then Mauro Schmid has really made us sit up and take notice in his first year at WorldTour level. The young Swiss is learning fast!

It’s often said in sport that to be a successful head of performance/coach/sporting manager that you need to first and foremost be a good selector.

I am very excited by the line-up that will represent Team Qhubeka ASSOS in this iconic event. The fact that aligned with our performance we have the added motivation of the hope and opportunity we inspire is truly unique, enjoy the race with us.

Elliot Lipski – Team Coach

“The coach is there to support the sport directors in their decisions on rider selection. It could be simply to answer questions on a riders ‘form’ or if we think they are ready to race.

More specifically, it is looking into the riders power profile and how it fits a certain race and what the teams (and then the impact that has on the individual) purpose is in the race.

“We use training peaks (WKO5) as our performance platform, the sport directors have access to the training that each rider does in the weeks leading up to a race and the coach is on-hand to provide context as to what the training was for, how the rider performed and if they are heading in the right direction, or not! Following selection, the training is then tailored/managed to fit the requirements of both the race and the ambitions/role of the rider.”