“It looks to be tough with four really big mountain days,” the Dimension Data sprinter told In the Bunch on the second and last rest day of the year’s first Grand Tour, which finishes in Verona on Sunday.
First up is the much talked about stage 16, which will see the peloton depart Lovere before finishing in the Alpine village of Ponte di Legno.
Although the Gavia Pass has been axed from the initial course due to snow and the fear of avalanches, the revised 194km layout still offers in excess of 5 000m of vertical ascent – a fact clearly not lost on Gibbons.
Another day in the mountains – 181km between Commezzadura and Anterselva Antholz – follows before some reprieve on Thursday, when the riders follow a sprinter-friendly 222km route between Valdaora and Santa Maria di Sala.
“I’m looking forward to that, although we lost Giacomo [Nizzolo] and Mark [Renshaw] this week, so I’ll be fighting alone,” said Gibbons, who is on track to completing his third Giro.
The 24-year-old said his plan was to get to Thursday’s stage as fresh as possible.
“I hope to have a crack on that day and salvage a result. As a sprinter I’m not too bad in the mountains and generally get through alright.”
Friday (151km from Treviso to San Martino di Castrozza) and Saturday (194km from Feltre to Croce d’Aune Monte Avena) offer two more tests of character for sprinters like Gibbons ahead of the final-day individual time-trial.
Gibbons, who is currently 84th in the general classification, said the opening week of the 21-stage event was “pretty solid” with a lot of long stages, but there was some chance for recovery during the middle week.
“After the time-trial (on stage nine), which I took as a rest day, followed by the actual rest day, as well as two easier 145km and 221km flat stages on the following days, I felt pretty good.”
“Stage 13 (Pinerolo to Ceresole Reale) was rough as it was the first real mountain finish and with it being 196km with 5 000m of climbing it was long and hard.”
Apart from the course, the peloton also had to deal with one of the wettest races in recent memory.
“It’s never nice to start in the rain and this year we’ve done that a fair few times. It’s also been cold, which makes the days harder than they need to be.
“A lot of wet weather clothing has been needed and some Nutella at breakfast for the motivation, especially on very wet days,” he said, admitting that it is hard to stay positive throughout.
“This year I’m also in a very different role and not going for results personally, which does have its challenges, but also takes a lot of pressure off and makes the whole thing less stressful.
“It does mean that you have to put your own ambitions aside and commit for someone who may or may not achieve success.”
The tifosi is perhaps the thing that has stood out the most for him during this year’s race.
“There’s always something unique and special about the people who come to support at the Giro and this year it’s just been taken a further notch up.”