Guillaume Martin seeks to start the ascent of the Giro d’Italia on Etna
High camps aren’t just about filling the legs with miles and the lungs with rarefied air, they’re also about preparing the mind for what’s to come. When Guillaume Martin chooses a training site before the Giro d’Italia, he chooses an evocative place.
Rifugio Sapienza, perched on the southern slopes of Mount Etna, will host the finish of stage 4 of the Giro on Tuesday afternoon, and the mountain refuge also served as Martin’s training base last month while he was preparing for his debut in the pink corsica. While at Cofidis, Martin had usually done his high altitude work at Sierra Nevada, but the moody volcano proved unstoppable ahead of the Giro d’Italia.
“There were a lot of reasons. There were obvious elements like the weather and the altitude, but there was also the idea of soaking up the Italian atmosphere before the Giro,” said Martin. “I was also able to do a reconnaissance of the Etna stage, so it was a combination of things.”
Martin began his stay in Sicily in early April, visiting Catania and Taormina with his girlfriend before staying at Rifugio Sapienza, 1900m above sea level, to complete his preparation for the Giro. His trainer Samuel Bellenoue went to the island to accompany him in the last part of the camp.
Sisyphus’ effort to repeatedly climb the same mountain route may have appealed to Martin’s philosopher, although the volcano once held fond memories for the Frenchman. He won on top of Mount Etna in the 2019 Giro di Sicilia, and he had already trained there the previous season with his Wanty-Gobert team.
The Giro returns to Mount Etna for the fourth time in six years on Tuesday, but while the finish at Rifugio Sapienza is familiar, Biancavilla’s approach is different. The lower, forested slopes were tackled in 2018, when Esteban Chaves took the stage victory, but this time the route continues to the mountain hut to make it a final 22km climb.
“It’s the same finish line that’s been used in the past, but there’s a different way to get there. I think that’s the hardest side of the climb, it’s really steep and I think it will be possible to see some gaps already there,” said Martin, who warned that the first finish at the top of the Giro would be complicated by his position immediately after the transfer from Hungary to Sicily.
“I think it’s the rest day that will be difficult to manage. We have to fly out early Monday morning and get over it. Then the stage itself is relatively short, but some rolling roads before you even get to Etna. This is going to be difficult to manage.
Against the watch
Martin arrives in Sicily just over a minute behind in the overall standings after losing ground to his overall standing rivals on the first two days of the race.
The Frenchman lost 12 seconds when he was caught on the wrong side of a gap in the skirmish at Visegrád on Stage 1, although he said he was reassured by his display during the time trial. shows the following afternoon in Budapest, when he cut his losses on Simon Yates. (BikeExchange-Jayco) at 45 seconds.
“My feelings in the time trial were pretty good and so was the result,” said Martin.
“After the first stage, where I was obviously a little disappointed with these lost seconds, I didn’t really know where I was physically. I didn’t know if it was because of the falls or because of my form. I am reassured now; I’m in the game.
In 2021, Martin had toyed with the idea of chasing Grand Tours stage wins rather than the general classification, but his consistency took him to eighth in the Tour de France and then ninth in the Vuelta a Spain. These qualities of endurance convinced him to immediately aim for the general classification of this Giro, and he intends to begin his ascent on the friendly expanses of Etna.
The need to preserve the place of his Cofidis team in the WorldTour, meanwhile, did not really play a part in Martin’s participation in this Giro. Of course, a high general classification in Verona would contribute strongly to their cumulative UCI points total, but as in April, Martin is in Italy of his own free will.
“It was first and foremost my personal choice and I’m very happy the team went with it,” Martin said.
“Truly, if you want to score a lot of UCI points, Grand Tours aren’t necessarily the best way to go because there’s such an investment of time and resources needed for the points offered. In fact, you’re better off doing a series of one-day runs. I am very happy that, despite the imperative to score points, Cofidis has accepted my desire to come to the Giro.