Team coach Vasilis Anastopoulos looked back on the hard work he put in together with Mark Cavendish as they prepared this year’s Giro d’Italia.

“A Grand Tour brings a lot of tension, as there are always a lot of expectations. Even if you know you did all that you could, the race is still decided at the end of the day. The riders have done what they could, and they arrived here in the best possible condition, so the confidence is there.”

“We don’t have a real GC contender this year here at the Giro, but we have a really good sprinter with Mark and a fantastic team around to support him. I think we brought here our best guys for the lead-out, and then we also have some guys for stage wins. Mark came here in the best possible condition. We did a training camp in Greece together, ten days of intense training, on which he responded really well. We also have the data from last year when we had the same camp at the same place just before his Tour success, and all the info we had is really positive.”

Stronger and faster

“Sunday’s stage victory with Cav, his 16th at the Giro and nine years after his last one, it was a nice one for the team after the hard time we had at the Classics. Of course, we worked a lot on his sprint capacity, but also on his endurance, on the long climbs to survive them, so it’s a mix of things. I think he arrived here lighter than last year, but also stronger and faster. The good thing is that Mark is happy and really positive – he was relaxed ahead of the Giro as he knows that all the work is done.”

“With Mauro, Davide, Bert and Michael we couldn’t ask for more, it’s one of the best lead-outs. This sprint train can deliver Mark to the best point and then it’s up to him, as it worked out perfectly Saturday afternoon. The key for the lead-out is trust, trust in the teammate in front of you. We trained on that during the training camps, and Michael is of course so experienced that he can give guidelines to the other riders and it gives a lot of confidence. He’s strong, experienced and smart. With his calmness he can guide the guys to put Mark in the right position at the right time. This team also gives Mark a lot of calmness, as it’s a squad really for him, suited to and always around him, so he’s calm and knows that it’s up to him to deliver. Of course, with some pressure, but he’s a big champion, and he likes this kind of pressure.”

Spending more time with Mark than with the family

“The relationship between Mark and myself, between an athlete and a trainer, is a multi-faceted relationship. I have to be the guy the riders put their trust in, I try to discuss everything with them. To be honest during those ten days I spent more time with Mark than with my family, even if I still slept at home, because every day we spent many hours together for his training and to analyze the training, we discussed about the next day and went through all the details. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of time to do that. To motivate him and present him the data, to show him he’s good, as every rider needs a boost and confirmation. This is how it goes with Mark, but also with all the other riders.”

“Cav has his own ideas, but he’s fair, he just demands what he deserves. At the beginning before he joined the team, maybe people thought that he’s not an easy character, but he has a big heart. Now Mark and myself just talk by the glimpse of an eye, we don’t need to use words. We communicate with our eyes. I know what I need to say in different circumstances.”

Life at the Giro d’Italia

“During the race I do the recons, so I’m half an hour in front of the peloton and I give all the details to the sports directors in the race car. Information such as the wind direction, difficult parts of the terrain that aren’t mentioned in the roadbook or other useful information to guide the team during the race. After a stage I analyze the data of the riders and I discuss the tactics with the sports directors. I can help with giving information on who is fresh, who is tired, which capacities somebody has.”

“In general, I try to give as much as possible information to the sports director to help him in the decisions, so I have a supporting role. Of course, every day I also meet the riders to discuss the feeling of the race or tactics. But all the staff here is fantastic in what they do, everybody helps so the riders only need to focus on racing, giving them the opportunity to recover as much as possible in between the stages.”

“For the next couple of weeks, we have Bert, Michael, Davide and Mauro for the lead-out. Pieter will be our working man, the guy who will do the necessary kilometers to control the breakaway and then he’ll stay with Cav on the climbs. Mauro and Davide can of course pick out some stages to go for their own chances, and Mauri is young as well and has a free role, but as a learning experience. I expect him to do well the next few weeks. Knoxy was added in the selection last minute, he had a really hard time because of his knee injury and sickness, but it was a really positive surprise the way his body responded in Romandie. He has a free role, to go for the breakaways and I think he can be up there. Overall, we have a solid and motivated squad, ready to give its best here.”


Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images

                       ©Wout Beel

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