"After all this time and all the problems I've had, being here fighting for the victory is really important" - Giulio Ciccone upbeat after bright start to Dauphine

For Giulio Ciccone, the start of the 2024 season was something of a nightmare. The Italian is beginning to pick up form though, as showcased by his performance in the opening three stages of the Criterium du Dauphine, just in time for the Tour de France.

“It was a bit of a strange ending because the climb was really very fast," reflected the Lidl-Trek star in his post-stage interview after a second straight fourth placed finish saw Ciccone move into the Green Jersey from teammate Mads Pedersen. "My teammates did a perfect job. I made a small mistake in the last kilometre, I was too far behind and I had to launch my sprint from very far away and basically I had to do two sprints. But that's okay, because I'm not a sprinter."

As mentioned, Ciccone had a disastrous start to the year, having to wait until the Tour de Romandie to make his season debut after undergoing surgery to remove a perineal cyst. As such, with the Tour de France on the horizon, the 29-year-old, who took the polka dot jersey at last year's edition of the French Grand Tour, is growing in optimism.

“In the end I'm still there, my legs are good and my sensations too. After all this time and all the problems I've had, being here fighting for the victory is really important. Now we have some tough stages ahead of us and then there will be the Tour," Ciccone concludes. "I really want to see how my condition will be in the next stages and understand if I can do something good."

Ahead of the stage 4 individual time-trial. Ciccone sits 9th in the general classification, just 13 seconds behind the Maillot Jaune and stage 3 winner, Derek Gee with Primoz Roglic best placed of the pre-race favourites in 4th at 7 seconds down.

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