EXCLUSIVE: Wurtz Schmidt ready to go stage hunting at 'wild' Giro D'Italia


EXCLUSIVE: Wurtz Schmidt ready to go stage hunting at 'wild' Giro D'Italia

Since 2020, Mads Wurtz Schmidt has represented Israel-Premier Tech, where he is now teammates with compatriot Jakob Fuglsang.
Since 2020, Mads Wurtz Schmidt has represented Israel-Premier Tech, where he is now teammates with compatriot Jakob Fuglsang.Luca Bettini/AFP
When Mads Wurtz Schmidt, in the spring of 2021, took his first and so far only victory of his career at WorldTour level, it happened on Italian asphalt during the week-long spring stage race, Tirreno-Adriatico. Now the Dane is back on Italian soil, and in a free role with a focus on stage victories, in what he predicts could be a race with very little control.

When the field of 176 starting riders roll down the start ramp on the opening time trial of this year's Giro D'Italia on Saturday afternoon, it is with three Danish riders at the start in the form of Mads Pedersen (27), Magnus Cort (30) and Mads Wurtz Schmidt (29).

But while several media outlets have filled their columns with predictions about the former's chances of winning all kinds of stages, he is not the only Mads in this year's Giro with ambitions for a stage win.

Israel-Premier Tech's Wurtz Schmidt will arrive in Abruzzo, just south of the harbour town of Pescara, in great shape.

The former Danish road champion is racing his second Giro, and while earlier in his career there was a particular focus on the fight against the clock that awaits on Saturday, the experienced Randrusian has recently shown that he has also hit an unprecedented level on the higher climbing percentages.

With good climbing form after a long altitude training camp, a good experience in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and a free role on the team, Wurtz Schmidt has already put at least one tick in the calendar where he thinks a breakaway can go the distance. But he also expects a bit of a chaotic race in this year's Giro.

In 2021, Mads Würtz Schmidt took a major victory when he won a stage victory in Tirreno-Adriatico.
In 2021, Mads Würtz Schmidt took a major victory when he won a stage victory in Tirreno-Adriatico.Profimedia

Three weeks at altitude

In 2021, Wurtz Schmidt had the best season of his career when he crashed out of the Vuelta a Espana, but before that he had two big victories first in Tirreno-Adriatico and then at the Danish road championships. This year, according to the Dane, his form is at least as good as it was in 2021 leading up to the Vuelta.

"The preparations have gone exactly as I had hoped for, and I am in the physical condition I had dreamed of being in. I was supposed to do the Tour of the Alps, but I had a little problem with my back that meant I wasn't ready. Instead, I took another week at altitude, so I had a total of 22 days in altitude training camp," Wurtz Schmidt tells Flashscore.

The more than three weeks of altitude training camp took place in the south of Spain, in the Andalusian Sierra Nevada, after which the Israeli rider was called in for the most recent monument of the year, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which he was told to ride at the 11th hour.

"I was riding really well. I had a defect because I had to avoid a spectator who was halfway down the road, and then I crashed into the back of Mattias Skjelmose's bike, so a couple of spokes went off. Unfortunately, our car was behind some groups that had been set, and then the race was kind of over," explains the Dane.

"But I had made it over this series of climbs. Quick Step had opened the race, where the big separation had happened, and I was still in it and felt fine, so it was a bit of a shame, but at least I could take with me that the form is exactly as it should be, and it seems that I'm climbing better than I have done before."

Fripas to break away

Among Israel-Premier Tech's eight selected riders, no one is expected to challenge favourites Primoz Roglic (33) and Remco Evenepoel (23) for overall victory, and so the team's first priority is clear.

"The first goal is to win a stage, and then we'll see how (Domenico) Pozzovivo can do in the general classification. But first and foremost, we have to see if we can win a stage. I'm one of those who are being bet on.

"It is especially me, Simon Clarke and then Pozzovivo who are being bet on in relation to winning a stage, so I get pretty free rein, which is also super cool," comes from the former junior and Under-23 world champion in single start.

Should you see the Dane's name far back on the results list on some of the flatter, more traditional sprinter stages, there is no need to sound the alarm bells, because Wurtz Schmidt explains that this is not where his energies are needed.

"It may well be that on the big mountain stages I have to sit around Pozzovivo as long as possible and help him on some of the climbs, but that's it. On the flat stages, sprinter stages and that kind of thing, we just have to go through as easily as possible and save energy, so we can really go for it on the stages where it's a breakaway."

Wurtz Schmidt started 2022 as the defending Danish champion.
Wurtz Schmidt started 2022 as the defending Danish champion.ASO/Alex Broadway

Tick in the calendar

The Dane has of course written down a list of several stages among this year's 18 - three stages are single starts - that could conceivably end with the breakaway making it all the way to the finish line, but for now Mads Würtz Schmidt has his eyes on one stage in particular.

"Right now I'm just taking it one stage at a time in relation to those where I think there are opportunities, and the first of them is stage four. It's too hard for the sprinters, and it's too easy for the classification riders, and it's also too early in the race for them to really cross swords, so I think it's a breakaway on stage four," the Dane points out.

While there are crosses next to a number of stages where the breakaway could have a chance, the Israel-Premier Tech rider is not looking forward to any of the stages.

"The shape is good and the weight is as it should be, so it's not like there's anything where I think I can't handle it. Of course there will be tough stages in the mountains, and I also just saw some pictures of what the weather looks like on this big climb in Switzerland up at an altitude of 2,500 metres, and it doesn't look like it will be particularly fun, but I think that on all the big mountain stages, there are many who will have it worse than me," says Wurtz Schmidt, who earlier in his career has won two single starts in PostNord Danmark Rundt.

The Wild West

It is a full five years since Wurtz Schmidt rode his first Grand Tour, when he participated in the Giro in 2018, and the following year it was then participation in the Tour de France, before he was at the start of the Vuelta a Espana a year later, where a crash forced the Dane to get off the bike.

There is therefore experience from all three Grand Tours, and while the experience in Spain was involuntarily interrupted by accidents, the Dane could feel the difference between the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in his participation in the two big races.

"I think the Giro seems more uncontrolled. It's more like the Wild West with more chances for breakaways. But then you can also look at the Tour last year, where it was also the Wild West and totally wild cycling almost every single day.

"I think we will see the same in the Giro this year as in the Tour last year, where it will be almost full throttle every day," he predicts.

Initially, the Dane can thus be experienced in a direct fight against the clock, before on May 9th you might want to tune in to the fourth stage of the race, where 175 hilly kilometres from Venosa to Lago Laceno await, because here you might catch a Wurtz Schmidt in top form and in a breakaway.


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