Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s James Knox is delighted with his current form as he builds up to a third successive participation at the Giro d’Italia.
The 25-year-old Brit is currently racing the Tour of the Basque Country and finished seventh on stage three’s punishing summit finish and eighth on stage four after another hilly test.
Preparing for the Giro – where he finished 14th last autumn, three places below his 11th place finish at the 2019 Vuelta a España – Knox is expecting to compete at the Ardennes Classics before the Italian Grand Tour and told Cycling Weekly that his recent performances have pleased him.
“I’m very happy with my form,” the Cumbrian said. “I had a difficult time on the big days at the Volta a Catalunya but I also got up the road and soaked up the week well, and right now I am right in the mix here.
“I have worked hard all winter and I hoped to be at a good level for previous races but wasn’t quite there. But now I can see from my power and my weight and the way that I am riding with the best guys that I am really at a good level.
“It only looks like a seventh place what I got the other day, but when you look at the guys who were just a few seconds ahead of me [16 seconds behind winner Tadej Pogačar – ed], these are guys who have won Grand Tours and World Championships, while David Gaudu is turning into a big star.
“I was really happy with where I finished and really happy with the performance and I can take a lot of confidence looking at the big targets coming up.”
Knox was originally scheduled to ride the Tour de Romandie and didn’t elaborate which of the three Ardennes Classics he will ride in, but is hopeful of further good showings before the Giro.
“I hope to maintain this same level I have right now for these races and be in the thick of it,” he added.
“The team works as an open book but if we have Julian [Alaphilippe] there and maybe João [Almeida] will be turning up, these are the big guys and at the moment I am below them in the pecking order but that’s alright.
“If I get to the final of these races and have the opportunity to race aggressively, I can see what I can do and what can happen.”
With two stages left in the Basque Country, the final day looks like an opportunity for riders of Knox’s ilk. He also has another advantage.
“I drove here with Mark Donovan who is also from Cumbria and we were laughing saying that it’s like the Spanish Lake District,” he said.
“It’s more extreme here, the climbs are even steeper, but there’s rain, small roads and it’s as similar to home as I’m going to get.
“The climb on stage three was crazy. It was this random road from a random village going nowhere but I think for two kilometres it averaged 18 percent gradient and then the flat part was still 11 or 12. I couldn’t get round the inside of the hairpins and had to go as far wide as I could.”
So what’s harder: Hardknott Pass or the climb to Ermualde? “I thought the climb here was just a little bit harder,” he laughed.