Larry Warbasse: Giro d'Italia's third week is insane
As the Giro d’Italia takes a breather on Monday after nine days of hard racing, American participant Larry Warbasse offers a stark warning of what’s to come for himself and the remainder of the peloton.
“The third week looks insane,” the AG2R-Citröen veteran told Cyclingnews a couple of days ago in the Giro. “If we can save some matches, that’d be great because I think we’ll definitely see some rolling dead men by that point in the race.
“Already, some of the days we thought it would be easier have ended up being much more difficult, so I think it’s going to be a really hard third week.”
The plus side of the tougher challenges, such as it is, could be that the Giro is harder to control, offering more opportunities for breakaway specialists such as Warbasse to get some air at the front of the race.
“We already saw that a few days ago in Naples, on a day that was surely due to be a bunch sprint, ended up being almost won by a breakaway,” Warbasse pointed out, referring to the attack by Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) and Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco-AIUIa) that died almost in sight of the finishing gantries.
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“Now there are going to be more hungry guys, especially after the break has won a few more times. Guys are going to be thinking, ’I’m not going to lose my chance now’. It's going to be pretty full on for the breaks.”
Warbasse himself is hoping for his own shot at a breakaway, although he points out that with stage 4 winner Aurelien Paret-Peintre (AG2R-Citroën) well placed on GC until up to the time trial and still running 15th on the rest day, he’s had team duties as a principal priority for now.
AG2R have had a good history of success in the Giro in previous years, too, with Andrea Vendrame winning a stage in 2021 and Geoffrey Bouchard taking the mountains prize that year, while Nans Peters won a stage of the Giro in 2019. Warbasse himself claimed his best GC Grand Tour result in 2020 when he finished 17th overall and claimed fifth on one stage, at Rocarasso, after a long break.
“When you see teammates and friends able to win, that always motivates you and helps you think you can do it too,” Warbasse, part of the AG2R team since 2019, explained.
“That’s maybe part of it, and I think it’s also the course suits our team well as we have probably 85% climbers in the team, not too many big guys. With so many climbs, we can get in the breaks.”
His own race has been shaped by having Paret-Peintre well placed in the GC for a long time in the first week, and as Warbasse puts it, “We’ve really tried to rally around him.
“Our other objective is to win a stage, and we’ve got that one ticked off, so that’s cool. We still have the liberty to go in the breaks, so we’ll be looking: I’d like to do that, but I know I’m not the only one, it’s always going to be a big fight.”
He says it’s hard to compare his condition in different Giros given the switches in objectives and other external factors like the Giro being so late in the season in 2020 because of the pandemic. At the moment, his form is neither his best ever nor yet is it his worst.
“There are always some differences, and it does depend on your objectives. In 2020, I was climbing really well, but that was different because it was a Giro in October, and usually, I go well at the end of the year, so I think that helped me there.
“I have pretty bad allergies, and that doesn’t help me in the Giro [in May], but that’s how it is. So I’m probably somewhere in the middle of my form."
Currently racing his ninth Grand Tour and fifth Giro - and due to ride the Tour last year but was diagnosed with COVID-19, then broke his pelvis in the Tour de Wallonie - Warbasse has enough experiences over the years to take a very objective perspective on the race. When asked a straight yes-no question, if he likes the Giro or not, he replies with a grin, “Sometimes.”
“It all depends, I love Italy, but there are days when it rains all day and in the Giro, I’ve not necessarily had the most positive experiences,” he said, surely referring to the 2016 edition when he had to pull out of the race after a freak stretching injury left his left leg numb.
“But it’s a cool race, a nice race: it’s hard, so we’ll see. If I can get some nice results, then I’ll like the Giro more.”
And after that ultra-hard tough week, he says he has some well-developed plans in place for what he’ll be doing afterwards when it comes to giving himself a treat for making it to Rome.
“Probably a burger, I always like a good burger, maybe pizza. I’ll have a little bit of a culinary adventure for a week,” he says with a laugh.
“I’ll venture off the diet and then try to get back focussed again. But for a few days afterwards, I’ll probably have a few gelati."