Although the environment is a bit different this year, Addy Engels is at home in the Tour of Italy. De Drent, who landed in Budapest on Tuesday afternoon, was active in the Italian stage race nine times as a rider and will start his tenth Giro as team leader.
The advance target of Jumbo-Visma, the team for which he has been working since 2016, is difficult to formulate, Engels also acknowledges. For the time being, the leaders Tom Dumoulin and the Norwegian Tobias Foss are still guessing about the form. That is why Sam Oomen was consciously put forward for the classification. “Tobias has dropped out a few times and has been ill. It has not been a flawless preparation. Not even for Tom of course.” Dumoulin also struggled with illness and had to dismount in the Tour of Catalonia.
The classification men of the team have prepared themselves at height in Tenerife. Engels: “The ambition is there, but only when the race has started, we will be able to estimate where we stand.”
The Giro starts in the Hungarian capital, which is gently turning pink. Friday will start with an interesting stage with an uphill finish. An individual time trial will follow on Saturday, the next day a stage that seems to be made for the sprinters.
For English (44) the Italian course is familiar environment. For a long time he was the Dutchman with the most participations to his name: nine. Last year Jumbo rider Jos van Emden passed him. “I tried to stop his selection a few more times.” A joke of course, because the same Van Emden gave him one of the best memories of the race he himself rode for the first time in 2000 with a win in the final time trial in 2017.
There were more beautiful moments. As a rider (“then young and talented”) he showed himself in a mountain stage in 2002 and was close to a stage win four years later. The sports director, who started in 2012 at Argos-Shimano, enjoyed the stage win of Slovenian Luka Mezgec in Trieste, close to his homeland. “We lost Marcel Kittel and Mezgec became our man for the sprints. We succeeded on the very last day.” In the 2016 Giro, Steven Kruijswijk seemed on his way to the overall victory, until he came to a stop against a snowy mountain ridge three days before the end. “But that Giro is also a nice memory.”
There were also bad moments. In his last Giro as a rider he was teammate of Wouter Weylandt, the Belgian who died after a fall. In 2020, the team had to go home early due to corona infections. Last year, intended leader George Bennett was disappointing, but Foss (9th) showed himself. “He was able to develop well there. Now we lack measuring moments. I can only say that we are going for the best possible result.”