Austrian champion Konrad forced to put Giro d'Italia goal on backburner

Cyclingnews
Austrian road race champion Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) works hard on stage 7 of the 2020 Paris-Nice

Austrian road race champion Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) should have been preparing specifically for the Giro d'Italia at this point of the year, had things panned out as planned. Instead, the 28-year-old is – like all other pros – stuck at home with no racing on the immediate horizon, training as much as he can, but ultimately waiting to see when the coronavirus pandemic abates and for things to return to something approaching normal.

The postponed Giro – which should have run from May 9-31 – is rumoured to be taking place as late as October, while governing body the UCI continues the task of trying to rewrite the 2020 calendar and squeeze in the sport's most-important events. Konrad was set to be one of the Bora-Hansgrohe leaders for the race, having taken seventh place overall at the 2018 edition.

"I would have actually recently flown to an altitude training camp to prepare for the Giro via the Tour of the Alps," Konrad said on his team's website at the weekend. "Now, I'll just have to make the best of the difficult situation. At the moment, I'm getting used to the fact that we'll have at least two months off, and then the sporting world will slowly get into gear again.

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"So I'm training more loosely now in order to be able to reach top form during the summer and autumn months. It's quite possible that this year’s season will last well into November due to all the postponements," he said.

Konrad's 2020 season had been heading very much in the right direction towards the Giro. He'd finished 13th overall at the shortened UAE Tour in late February, including seventh place on stage 3, which featured the first of the race's two summit finishes on the climb of Jebel Hafeet.

Events at the UAE Tour – with the race being cancelled with two stages to go – signalled the start of the coronavirus crisis affecting professional cycling, although Konrad also took part in Paris-Nice in March, which proved to be the last major race before the sport's shutdown.

"It came as a complete surprise to all of us. We were woken up in the middle of the night by a coach and informed that the race had been cancelled," Konrad said of the situation at the UAE Tour.

"Then we had to wait because we didn't know when we would be able to travel back home. What happened in the subsequent days and weeks turned the entire sporting world upside down and has relegated sports to taking a back seat for a while," he said.

"I can't say that I wasn't satisfied with my form," Konrad admitted of the unfortunate timing of the enforced break. "Although it wasn't enough to take a top result, my shape was extremely good – even at Paris-Nice, where I rode in a support role for [overall race winner] Maximilian Schachmann. So, of course it’s disappointing that I can't take advantage of this good form now."

At home in Austria, Konrad is one of those pros who's still lucky enough to be able to train outside for his future, as-yet unknown goals, but is nevertheless taking advantage of the continuing worldwide crisis to take things a little easier while there's no racing.

"I'm enjoying time with my family, who I rarely get to see so often during the season as a professional cyclist," he said.

"The most important thing is not to overdo it and to understand the situation as a type of home training camp," said Konrad, "but this is certainly a good time to get away from strict training plans and just have fun while riding."