Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) has been on an upward trajectory of success this spring and brings a top level of fitness, health and enthusiasm to his first Giro d’Italia, his first Grand Tour. How ready is the young Irishman? “100%” was his unhesitant response just three days before the opening time trial along the Abruzzo coast.
Healy won’t be sneaking into the field for his first foray into a three-week endurance event. The 22-year-old Irishman has six podiums so far this year, shining in the Ardennes with second at De Brabantse Pijl and then second at Amstel Gold Race, riding in the winning move with 80km to go. At Liège-Bastogne-Liège he was in the thick of it again and finished one spot off the podium in fourth.
“Obviously I’m really happy with the Ardennes and just happy to make my first Grand Tour,” Healy told journalists at a pre-race team press conference on Wednesday.
“I needed a few days off after a big block in the Ardennes, but I think that was more from fatigue rather than illness. I’m rested now and haven’t any signs of illness so I think I’m ready to perform.”
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The Giro is a test of endurance, even with a strong EF Education-EasyPost team around him. He’s no stranger to stage races in Italy, having experienced success just two years ago with Trinity Racing at the Baby Giro, earning three podiums including a victory on the 10th and final stage.
“I’m an opportunistic rider. This is a good race for me. I really like racing in Italy and it’s brought me success in the past. So I’m looking forward to the weeks ahead,” Healy said, noting that it was not his condition or health which was the biggest question mark, but the staying power across multiple mountain ranges for his longest stage race yet.
“I think that’s the question that I need to find out, you know. I rested well after the Ardennes and just taking it day by day. We know it’s going to be a hard race and hopefully the legs will also be [solid].
“It’s an unknown for me. It’s not something I had an opportunity to really even train in that much, you know. This sort of terrain is really something that’s gonna test me. I’m gonna find out whether it’s something that suits me as well, but I think if the legs are good then there’s no reason why I can’t do well on the big climbs.”
Also looking for opportunities for stage wins is Magnus Cort, but when the terrain flattens out. Coming off last week’s Tour of Romandie, Cort had two top 10s in sprint finishes and he plans to look for opportunities throughout the three weeks in Italy.
“I think for the few bunch sprints at the beginning of the Giro, I don’t plan to participate there. I think I’ll look [at opportunities] once we get a little bit into the Giro. I will not say that you will never see me, so I guess we’ll have to see what happens,” he said at the team press conference.
“I would have liked to be a little bit better in Romandie than I was, but it’s no catastrophe. And I feel confident that Romandie and these early days will bring the legs to an even better position than what they were in Switzerland. There’s still three weeks to go so I’m pretty confident that I will be good doing this race.”
The US-based WorldTour team has a solid squad for individual successes, adding Rigoberto Urán into the mix for climbing alongside Healy and GC leader Hugh Carthy The 36-year-old Urán may not be part of the GC picture any longer but has good form to contribute riding to 10th at Catalunya and being in the mix on a couple of stages at Itzulia.
Healy was eager to take advantage of his opportunity at the Giro straight away. When asked if he would focus on a stage win, a KOM title or even the GC, he smiled and say, “Everything.”
“I’m here to test myself and see how far I can go.”