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Interview point: Jan Hirt about Giro, new role and cycling in Czech Republic

The Czech rider Jan Hirt is riding his second Giro d’Italia in career. In 2017, in his previous team, Jan was like a “free player” who could do his race and achieve personal results. Now, in Astana Pro Team Hirt is one of the key riders in the “train” of Miguel Angel Lopez, the leader of the Kazakh team. In the second rest day at the Giro d’Italia Jan Hirt talks about his attitude to the Italian Grand tour, shares his impressions of a new role in the team and assesses the popularity of cycling in Czech Republic.

This is your second Giro d’Italia and you never did the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España. What do you think about the Giro and would you like to take part in other Grand tours?

- Indeed, so far I did only the Giro in my career. I like this race and I think it suits me better than other Grand tours. It seems to me that the mountain stages, traditionally included in the Giro route, suit me well: long climbs with very impressive gradients – this is just for me. At the Tour de France the climbs are a bit flatter but longer, while at the Vuelta there are a lot of short and very steep climbs, which I do not like. Besides, just like I've heard, there's always a lot of stress at the Tour, and that's not for me. At the Giro d’Italia it is always a good and nice atmosphere. But that doesn't mean I don't want to go to the Tour or Vuelta at least once. If I have an opportunity I would like to try myself on French and Spainish roads.

Last year you had a chance to get your personal result at the Giro, while this season you help the team’s leader. Do you feel any differences between Giro-2017 and Giro-2018?

- Of course, I feel great differences between these two races, last year and this. In 2017, I had an opportunity to do the Giro as a free rider, I fought for the overall classification. Now, I am working for the leader and it is much easier: I do not need to keep in mind the situation in the GC, there is no need to work for 100% in the end of the stages, trying not to lose time. In the flat stages, you can do your job and quietly drop behind to save energy for the next day, because the main thing in this race is our leader Miguel angel Lopez and the whole team is 100% dedicating for him. Of course, this is a new role for me, a new experience, but I can say that I like the way the Giro is going for me this year. You know, when you have a strong leader who is able to achieve a high result, it is a great pleasure to help him.

In the end of the week the famous Monte Zoncolan is waiting for us. What do you think about it?

- I climbed up to Zoncolan in the training. And, I would say that I did not like this climb. But, one thing is to do it on training and absolutely another to do it in the race. I think, to pass such a climb as Zoncolan in the race, in the rush of fight is something special. Absolutely different feelings must be. So, maybe, my opinion of Zoncolan will change after the stage. Because, as I said before, I like long and steep climbs.

The first week of racing is over and we had two tough days last weekend…

- Yeah, we passed two difficult stages in mountains. And, of course, I feel a bit tired. But, overall feeling is very good, my legs work fine. I hope that to the start of the final week it will be even better.

What do you think about the popularity of cycling in Czech Republic? For example, is there any TV stream of the Giro d’Italia?

- As it seems to me, cycling is quite popular in my country, there are a lot of fans who ride their bike every day. Also the Sports TV channels, which often broadcast the races, are popular. Of course, this is not sport number 1 in the Czech Republic, as, for example, in Italy, where cycling after football takes a very worthy place. But, in the Czech Republic a lot of people love and follow cycling.

Photo credit: @Bettiniphoto

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