While the Vuelta riders enjoyed their first rest day on Monday, Lorenzo Germani agreed to talk about the first nine days of racing, filled with emotions for the Groupama-FDJ cycling team. The 21-year-old Italian tells us about Lenny Martinez’s red journey with stars in his eyes, about discovering a Grand Tour, and claims that he and his teammates still have a lot of ambition.

Lorenzo, happy to be resting today?

I think I needed it, but more mentally than physically. In the first stages, I did not feel good, my legs were a bit hard. On the evening of the Andorra stage, I was really dead, but since then it has been better and better physically speaking. These last 2-3 days, the feelings have been improving. That said, the rest day comes at the right time. It’s good for the head, as you can relax, calm down a little, especially after 2-3 stressful and tough days.

“It’s really crazy”

Did you feel a difference between these nine days of racing and the stage races you’ve done in the past?

This is the first time I have come to nine days. Before, my maximum was seven. I think there is a slightly different dynamic in the peloton on a Grand Tour. On the flat stages, it’s calmer because everyone thinks about the three weeks. You’re focused on the stage, but in the back of your mind, you’re thinking about the three weeks. Everyone keeps something in the tank, unless you fight for the stage of course. But in the gruppetto, you think of the three weeks. Once you get to the hotel, you think of the three weeks. It’s really important.

Let’s talk about this first part of the Vuelta. Did you imagine it would be that good?

I don’t think anyone expected that, but from the first stage, we said we shouldn’t set limits and think too much. From the time trial, we wanted to fight with the best. We did what we always did, and we worked well together. Then, our leader managed to take his responsibility and ride an incredible stage when he took the breakaway. We entered the top-10 on the first six stages, we almost won with Lenny. We first took the white jersey by proxy, then the red jersey, and not by proxy (laughs). It’s really crazy that such a young team leads the peloton with the red jersey. Personally, I was really moved, I had goosebumps, because it does not happen every day. Unfortunately, we lost the red jersey, but we still have the white one, and that’s still not bad. I am very happy, and very proud of the team. It’s quite unreal when you think that last year, we were fighting for the win on the Ronde de l’Isard, the Giro della Valle d’Aosta, the Baby Giro, and that this year, we are on the Vuelta, we led it we are now third overall.

“We’ve earned the peloton’s respect”

How did you experience the day when Lenny took the jersey?

In the morning, we were joking on the bus, and I said to him: “if you take the jersey, I don’t care, I’ll pull the bunch until Madrid, and even in the neutral starts!”. And then he took the jersey. That day, we really did a great teamwork. He crashed, Romain and Sam did a great job bringing him back to the back of the peloton, then I made the effort to bring him from the back to the front of the bunch, and it wasn’t easy because the fight for the break was on. Once he got in front, he jumped in the breakaway and then Michael and Rudy did a great job. We followed the end of the stage through the radio, it was crazy.

Did you also make the most of Lenny’s red jersey?

In a way, because we earned the peloton’s respect. A lot of guys congratulated us, whether at the sports director’s car or in person in the peloton. The Jumbo-Visma also came to congratulate us. It was really an honour.

Did the “Conti” atmosphere transfer to the WorldTour team on this Vuelta?

It’s for sure different from other times, because we are six former Conti riders, including four from last year. There is a very good atmosphere, we know each other very well, and we can say that we grew up together. With the staff, everything is going super well. I also said from the beginning that you needed young riders who want to learn and older ones who want to share to create a good group. This is totally the case here. We have Rudy as road captain, and he is a very nice guy with a lot of experience. I think he can bring us something extra in the second and third weeks, when things get tough, in the mountain stages and with fatigue. His help and experience can make the difference. We are very attentive to what he tells us, and he wants to help us.

“We learn to work as a team around a leader”

Have you spotted a difference with the other WorldTour races you have already raced?

The main difference is that everyone thinks of the three weeks, as I said before. The level is obviously very high, but compared to Volta a Catalunya, for example, it is much the same. Yesterday and the day before yesterday, we also experienced extremely fast starts. It was already nervous in the neutral, the starts were pretty crazy, and we had to spend energy from the beginning just to hang on. It’s true that we don’t often see that, but I think it depends more on the stage itself than on the race’s category.

We often say that the Vuelta is the least nervous Grand Tour, but this one seems very eventful, nonetheless.

We have often experienced some particular issues, with the rain, the neutralization, a new finish line, the wind, and a few crazy stages. We had two calmer stages, but they were still nervous in the final. I can’t compare to other Grand Tours, but yeah, I think it was a pretty solid first week.

Is it now easier for the team to assert itself in the bunch?

It surely is when you have a leader’s jersey and are third overall, but that being said, you need to earn the respect. Yesterday, Jumbo-Visma was riding the lead, UAE was behind, but Movistar was fighting for position to take the third row in the bunch. Respect is also earned in racing. They won’t let you pass just because you’re third overall. So we try to always stay together, because it’s easier to take a position that way. We learn to stay with Lenny and he learns to stay with us. We learn to work as a team around a leader, and it’s not so easy, but I think we’re getting there pretty well.

“We want to play until the end”

On a personal note, are you happy with your start to the Vuelta?

I’m satisfied, even more so with the last two days because I saw that I was making progress. Yesterday, I was in the first echelon with all the leaders. It wasn’t easy and I was happy from a personal point of view, but it was a pity that I was there and Lenny wasn’t, because it wasn’t really useful. After the stage, I learned that the team asked me to wait on the radio, but with the distance it did not work, and I did not hear. Fortunately, they came back.

Is the Groupama-FDJ Vuelta already a success?

The first part of Vuelta is definitely successful because nobody expected that: so many top-10s, the red jersey, the white jersey. After nine stages, the Vuelta is a success, and it is also thanks to the sports directors who trusted us.

The rest will be a bonus?

It won’t be a bonus because we’re still hungry. We want to get a stage win and a top-10 overall. Once we’re entered the game, we want to play until the end. Even if we had a good first week, we want to continue like this. No. We want to continue like this especially because we had a good first week. We are young, but we’re hungry. Personally, I would like to get to Madrid and also join a breakaway, but I’ll be following the team’s instructions. Even if I’m not going for myself, I hope to be in a breakaway to help Michael or Rudy get the victory.

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