Damiano Caruso will return to the Giro d’Italia in 2023 after missing the race in favour of the Tour de France this year. He was a surprising second overall in his last Giro appearance in 2021, winning the penultimate stage to Alpe Motta after a long-range attack that threatened Egan Bernal’s grip on the maglia rosa.
“It’s true that I would have liked to have done the Giro last year, but you can’t always do what you’d like to do, especially when you’re in a big team like this, so I had to satisfy the needs of the team,” Caruso said in a video conference from the Bahrain Victorious training camp in Altea.
“It means a lot for me to come back to the Giro. I had the best experience of my career there, and I can’t wait to experience the warmth of the fans again on the roadside.”
Bahrain Victorious deployed Mikel Landa as their leader for the 2022 Giro, holding Caruso in reserve for the Tour, where he lined up alongside Jack Haig. Caruso had warmed up for the Tour with victory at the Giro di Sicilia and fourth overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné, but he struggled to scale the same heights in July, eventually abandoning the race with COVID-19 in the final week.
The Sicilian suggested that his performance in the opening two weeks of the Tour had been affected by the police searches of the homes of Bahrain Victorious riders and staff on the eve of the race as part of a Europol investigation. Caruso’s home in Sicily was searched before he travelled to the race, while the Bahrain Victorious hotel in Copenhagen was raided on the day before the Grand Départ.
“It’s easy to say that I had some problem just at the beginning of the Tour, everybody knows about that,” Caruso said.
“That took my focus out of the race, I was a bit disconnected from it and then during the race I just felt bad. At the end of the second week, I had a positive case of covid and that was basically the end of my season. I had to stop for two weeks after the Tour, and then it was hard for me to try to find one more peak of condition for the rest of the season.”
The 35-year-old will start his 2023 season at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Ruta del Sol in February, before racing Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo. “In April, I’ll do a training camp in the mountains before I’ll do the Tour de Romandie again, and then I think I’m almost certain to ride the Giro d’Italia,” said Caruso.
With Haig and Landa both set to ride the Tour, Caruso looks set to be Bahrain Victorious’ outright leader in May, even if he was cautious about his status.
“Personally, my objective is to win a stage again and then see what the condition is as we go along,” he said. “I’ll support the eventual team leader or maybe I’ll try to go for GC myself. At the moment, it’s a bit too soon to say.”
Caruso acknowledged that world champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) was the favourite for overall victory, not least because of the two flat time trials in the opening week, though he noted that the mountainous finale to the Giro might prove more decisive than the miles against the clock.
“At the moment I think Evenepoel is the favourite, and if we look at the Evenepoel of this year, I think that any kind of route suits him,” Caruso said. “But we know well that there are lots of unknowns, including the weather, which can change drastically over the three weeks, so it’s not a given that the favourite will win. And that’s the beauty of the Giro: the race is open into the final week.”